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From arrest to trial


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  • 1. From arrest through trial A VERY BASIC OVERVIEW
  • 2. Arraignment
    • Formal hearing.
    • Defendant is informed of specific charges.
    • Bail is set.
    • In some cases, plea bargain may be discussed and reached.
  • 3. Preliminary hearing
    • 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.
  • 4. Grand jury
    • 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.
  • 5. Grand Jury
    • 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.
  • 6. Indictment
    • 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.”
  • 7. Plea bargaining
    • 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.
  • 8. Pre-trial activity
    • 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.
  • 9. 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.”
    • Jury consultants.
  • 10. The trial Opening arguments
    • Prosecutor goes first.
    • 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.
  • 11. The Trial Prosecution
    • Presentation of case through evidence and witnesses.
    • Direct examination.
    • 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.
    • Prosecution rests.
  • 12. 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.
    • Defense rests.
  • 13. The Trial
    • Defendant may take the stand, but does not have to. Prosecution CANNOT comment on a defendant’s decision not to testify.
  • 14. Rebuttals
    • 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.
  • 15. Summations
    • State and defense present closing arguments to the jury.
    • Can be dramatic.
  • 16. 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.
  • 17. Jury deliberations
    • Jury meets in private.
    • 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.
  • 18. Verdict
    • Must be unanimous.
    • 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.
  • 19. Trial
    • 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.