Jury Trial

Jury Trial
As a citizen of the United States, you are granted numerous protections by the government. The right to remain silent and the right to an attorney are just two examples of these protections. In addition, anyone who has been accused of a crime is also entitled to a jury trial. 

Typically, once a person has been charged with a particular crime, he or she has three options: plead guilty to the offense and serve the sentence that goes along with it, strike a deal with the prosecutor by agreeing to plead guilty to a lesser and receive a less severe punishment (also known as a plea bargain), or plead not guilty and go to trial.

Although the majority of criminal cases do not go to trial, if you decide to take your case before the court, you may be given the option of having your case tried before a judge (a bench trial) or your peers (a jury trial). If the latter is chosen, the prosecution and defense will begin to select individuals to serve on the jury.

Potential jurors are chosen at random using electronic databases such as driver’s license and voting records. After these individuals are questioned by the defense and/or prosecution (a process known as “voir dire”), 6 to 12 jurors will be selected and the trial will begin.

During a jury trial, both the defense and prosecution will begin by making an opening statement to the court. In these opening statements, each side will present its version of events, outlining facts to support its theory.

Next, the prosecution will introduce its witnesses. During cross-examination, the defense is also given the opportunity to interrogate these individuals. Likewise, after the defense has presented their witnesses, the prosecution may question them as well.

After both sides have questioned their witnesses, the prosecution will present its rebuttal—or in other words, challenge the defense’s theory. Additional evidence may be presented at this time to support the prosecution’s claims. Following the rebuttal, both sides will make closing statements to re-summarize the facts of the case and present their version of what happened.

Once closing statements are made, the jury will be given specific instructions about the laws and how they apply to the case. With these instructions in mind, the jury will begin its deliberations, taking as long they need to determine a verdict. In most states, a unanimous agreement is required before the jurors’ decision can be announced. Depending on the verdict, either the charges against you will be dropped, or an appropriate sentence will be determined.