From arrest through trial A VERY BASIC OVERVIEW
- Defendant is informed of specific charges.
- In some cases, plea bargain may be discussed and reached.
- State puts on evidence to show why the matter should go to trial.
- Defense attorney can cross-examine witnesses.
- Prosecutors may want to avoid this and go to the Grand Jury instead, since preliminary hearing is said to benefit the defense.
- Local citizens hear evidence from the prosecutor and decide if there is enough evidence to go to trial.
- Number who sit on a grand jury varies by state—from 2 to 23. In Missouri, there are 12 people on a grand jury. Nine must agree to for an indictment to be issued.
- Grand jury does not determine guilt.
- Defendant can testify before a grand jury, but defense usually cannot call witnesses.
- Grand juries are secret and not open to reporters.
- Grand juries are believed to benefit the prosecution, since it usually is the only side that presents evidence.
- An indictment is a formal accusation.
- It identifies specific charges against a defendant.
- An indictment by a grand jury can also be called a “true bill.”
- Negotiation to get defendant to plead guilty to a lesser charge.
- Can alienate victim or victim’s family.
- Lessens the load on the overburdened court system and saves money.
- Request for a bench trial, which is when there is no jury. All decisions are made by a judge.
- Discovery—exchange of information between prosecutor and defense prior to trial.
The Trial Jury selection
- Jury selection or voir dire (“speak the truth”).
- Purpose of jury selection is to seat a panel that both sides agree on.
- Attorneys can “challenge” the jurors they do not want.
- Each side has a specific number of “peremptory” challenges, when they need no reason to reject a juror.
- Jurors can also be rejected for “cause.”
The trial Opening arguments
- Opening argument lays out what they intend to prove.
- Can’t promise something in opening argument and never bring it up again.
- Defense usually gives an opening statement next, but is not required to.
- Defense may wait until after the prosecution rests to make an opening argument.
The Trial Prosecution
- Presentation of case through evidence and witnesses.
- Cross examination by defense, aimed at disproving or casting doubt on their testimony.
- Redirect by prosecution, to reestablish the credibility of the evidence or testimony.
The Trial Defense
- Usually the defense will make motion for a “directed verdict” saying the prosecution has not made a case. (asking the judge to essentially end the trial)
- Defense calls its own witnesses, including rebuttal witnesses who aim at disproving what the prosecution witnesses have stated.
- The prosecutor cross examines defense witnesses.
- The defense may redirect.
- Defendant may take the stand, but does not have to. Prosecution CANNOT comment on a defendant’s decision not to testify.
- Rebuttals are offered on both sides.
- Witnesses can be recalled.
- Unless the judge approves it, no new witnesses can be called after a side has rested its case.
- State and defense present closing arguments to the jury.
Charge to Jury
- Judge charges or instructs jurors before they deliberate.
- The judge may explain the law that should be applied or tell jurors what verdicts can be reached.
- They have been told not to discuss the case before the deliberations, so this is the first time they will be considering the evidence.
- Juries can ask to review material or clarify legal options.
- Options usually guilty or not guilty.
- If jury is deadlocked, judge will likely send jurors back to continue deliberations.
- If deadlock is not surmountable, a mistrial will be declared by a judge.
- Such cases may be tried again, or may be plea bargained.
- Following a guilty verdict, there is often a pre-sentencing investigation.
- Lawyer has 30 days to file a “Notice of Appeal” after a guilty verdict.