You've decided not to plead guilty, so you're going to trial. You've never been through it before, so you're not sure what to expect.
As with any legal process, the more you know, the better. Here are the six main phases of a trial so that you can be prepared.
Many jurors are called and interviewed, but only a dozen are selected. Some may have prejudices that keep them from being fair, for example, and a fair trial is the jury's top goal. The selections are made carefully.
The Opening Statement
This sets the stage for the trial. Evidence isn't presented and witnesses aren't needed. Both sides will talk about the facts as they see them so the jury can see where they stand.
Witnesses Are Called
Witnesses are brought up and asked to testify. After they do, they may then be cross-examined by the opposition. For example, a witness may testify on your behalf, saying you weren't at the scene of the crime, and then the opposing legal team will ask questions designed to poke holes in that story -- perhaps by claiming that the witness is not trustworthy.
The Closing Argument
Each side gets a chance to go over the case one more time, summing things up and outlining the case for the jury. This time may be used to reiterate how the witnesses and other evidence supported the claims from the opening statements.
The Jury Gets Instructions
The jury is made up of your peers, not legal professionals. As such, the judge gives them significant instruction about their role, the legal standards used and how to make their decision.
The Jury Decides
The final step can take hours or days. The jury confers, considers all evidence and renders a verdict. It's important to note that this is not when a sentence will be given out. If needed, that's done at a future hearing.
Since you've never been through this before, it's crucial that you know about your legal defense options, your rights and obligations in court, and how to proceed through each of these six steps.
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