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Criminal Trial Process, Outline Example

Pages: 1

Words: 1030

Outline

Introduction

This paper provides an outline of the Criminal Trial Process within the US legal system.  It covers the major steps from jury selection through to sentencing.  The varying states and federal government in general follow a fairly standardized procedure.

The Process

  • Selecting a judge vs. jury trial
    1. The right to decide on judge or jury
    2. Jury numbers
  • Voir Dire / Jury Selection
    1. Selection process for jury selection
  • Motion in Limine
    1. Those items requested to be inadmissible in court
  • Opening Statements
    1. Prosecution opening statements
    2. Defense opening statements
    3. Judge / Jury understand process of case
  • Prosecution Case
    1. Main case to judge and jury
    2. Evidence beyond “ reasonable doubt”
  • Direct Examination and Cross Examination
    1. The process for calling witnesses
    2. Concept of perjury and taking the oath
  • The Defense’s Case
    1. The Prosecution’s case
    2. Further witnesses
  • Settling on Jury instructions
    1. Provision of instructions to jury
  • Jury deliberations
    1. Deliberations of the Jury
  • Jury Verdict
    1. Verdict of the Jury
  • Judge Sentencing
    1. Immediate Sentence
    2. Deferred Sentence

Selecting a Judge vs. Jury Trial – The defendant has the right to decide on a judge or jury trial.  In certain state jurisdictions equally both the prosecution and defense have the rights to demand a trial by jury.  In Felony cases this will be 12 jurors but in lesser cases as few as six may be considered appropriate. (NOLO, 2012).

Voir Dire / Jury Selection – The normal selection process for jury selection is a question and answer process carried out by the defence and prosecuting attorney. This is termed ‘ Void Dire’ but in some states the judge conducts this process.

Motion in Limine – This is where a request may be made to the judge for certain materials or evidences to be declared inadmissible in court.  Most defence attorneys do this at the earliest opportunity before any of the jurors gain preview to this which may rule in admission out.

Opening Statements –  This is really the commencement of the trial process whereby the prosecution and defence make opening statements to the judge or jury.  This really sets out the arguments for which both sides will try to prove their case.  The Judge and jury should obtain a clear understanding of the process by which both sides will make their case.

Prosecution Case – The Prosection will present the main case to the judge and jury.  The emphasis here is based upon the prosection presenting sufficient evidence for continuance of the case beyond reasonable doubt that the defendant committed each of the stated crimes.  If the prosecution fails the defence can request a motion to dismiss the case without the need for further defence, based on the premise that the prosecution failed to put forward sufficient evidence of the defendant’s guilt.

Direct Examination and Cross Examination –  The process by which each side may call witnesses in order to support their arguments or statements. The witnesses testify to tell the truth and are so sworn under oath.  Where a witness lies under oath to the court they themselves may be charged with perjury.  The defense has the option of calling witnesses in any order of selection and the prosection cannot call a defendant to testify as a witness. (Lawfirms.com, 2012)

The Defense’s Case – The defense’s case follows that of the prosecution.  This is essentially a two pronged strategy that will try to establish that the prosection failed to put forward sufficient evidence in order to support a prosecution.  Alternatively, the defense may call further witnesses in order to rebut the defense case or try to demonstrate reasonable doubt to the jury. At this point the defense will rest allowing a final rebuttal by the prosecution.

Settling on Jury instructions –  This is a process  whereby the judge, defence and prosection come together in order to determine the final set of instructions that will be provided to the jury.

Jury Instructions –  This is the process whereby the Judge passes of the final instructions to the jury before they deliberate  in order to reach a verdict.  This is essentially guidance to the jurors on how to apply the case and perform their duties.

Jury deliberations –  It is here where the jury retire in order to reach a verdict.  In serious criminal cases the verdict must be unanimous, however certain states have relaxed this to a majority rule  whereby 10 out of 12 agree a specific verdict.  Where a majority rule or unanimous verdict cannot be reached the jury is said to be “hung” and a re-trial may be requested.

The Verdict –  Once the jury delivers the verdict it is the responsibility of the judge to dismiss the case for ‘not guilty’ verdicts or to pass sentencing on ‘guilty’ verdicts. The judge has the right to pass immediate sentencing or may defer to another day for additional time to deliberate before passing sentence. (Voll, J. 2012)

Conclusions

One of the important aspects of the criminal trial process is the calling for and obtaining witnesses for the trial.  It is the responsibility of both the defence and the prosection to ensure that desired witnesses appear at the trial.  If necessary they can call upon a court order called a subpoena that demnds that the person make an appearance at the court to testafy suring the trial. Subpoenas are prepared by the court clerk and are then formally served on the desired witness.

For those witnesses that are not formally subpoenad they are not mandated to appear at the court trial.  Where you use law enforcement officers to deliver the subpoena they normally require 5 days notice before the formal trial hearing. Where a witness cannot attend the trial it is possible to get a deposition or statement from the witness. The subsequent videotape or written statement can then be presented at trial for evidence. Where witnesses live in another State they cannot be subpoenad. As such the court needs to check on the agreements that exist between the state in question. This is normally a question of the court in one state ( the issuer of the subpoena) making arrangements with the court in another state in order to have it served in accordance with the law and prisions of that state.

References

Lawfirms.com. (2012, 5 26). The Process of Criminal Trials. Retrieved from Lawfirms.com: http://www.lawfirms.com/resources/criminal-defense/criminal-defense-case/criminal-trial.htm

NOLO. (2012, 5 26). Criminal Trial Procedures: An Overview. Retrieved from NOLO: http://www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/criminal-trial-procedures-overview-29509.html

Voll, J. (2012, 5 25). The Outline of a Criminal Case. Retrieved from Law offices of Jeff Voll: http://www.crimeattorney.com/crimcaseoutline.htm

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