A jury trial is a legal proceeding whereby a case is presented to a jury to make decisions and findings of fact and reach a verdict which is later applied by a judge. A jury is a group of people sworn in to hear, judge, and give a verdict on a given case. Jury trials are regularly used in serious criminal cases. The work of a jury is to scrutinize the evidence provided in the courtroom and agree on whether beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant committed the crime in question.
The first step in a jury trial is the jury selection. This is a process where jurors are vetted and questioned in order to determine their ability to integrity. Jurors are the most important people in a criminal trial because they decide whether the accused is guilty or not guilty of the crimes charged against them. The prospective selected jurors are supposed to be made up of representatives of the local people. The voir dire process follows whereby the attorney’s and judges question the jurors to make sure that they are fair in their judgments and are unbiased. After the questioning, only 12 people are accepted as jurors for the trial and they take an oath to give verdicts upon the evidence presented in court only. Alternate jurors may be selected if the judge and the attorney’s believe that the jurors are qualified and competent to decide the factual matters in the case intelligently.
The second step is the opening of statements. The first discussion comes in two statements, one from the prosecutor and the other from the defense. The prosecutor presents facts of the case on the states view while the defense gives the jury its own analysis of the facts. The prosecutor and lawyers obligation is to give an opening statement on what is anticipated of the evidence. They also give a frame of the case, the point of contention and the issues of the case that should be decided
This step is followed by presentation of evidence and testimonies of the witnesses. . Later, the attorney presents evidence either in form of a written document or an object and the sworn in witnesses are then allowed to give their evidence in the courtroom. After full evidence has been provided in a courtroom, the lawyers from both sides give their arguments and conclusions are made (Godfrey, 1997). The judge gives the jury instructions and the law that should be applied in the case at hand. The case is then rested after all the evidence from both sides has been heard.
Closing arguments and jury instructions follow after evidence has been presented in the courtroom. The attorney summarizes the evidence presented and leaves it to the jury to find the verdict. Before the jurors start their discussion, the judge reads the instructions of the law to the jury and reminds them of the law that governs the case.
Jury deliberation and verdict is the last step in jury trial. A foreperson is selected to foresee that the discussion is carried out in a free and orderly manner. All jurors are given equal opportunities to express and support their opinions. Deliberations are done on all issues and voted upon prior to decisions being made on the case. In addition, when a verdict is arrived at, the jurors sign the verdict forms and notify the bailiff. The verdict is finally read by the clerk and the judge dismisses the jury. Conversely, the case maybe dismissed if the jury fails to reach a common verdict or they may start the trial all over again.
There are constitutional rights endorsed during a jury trial which both the defendant and the jury should be aware of. The accused should enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial that should be carried out in the state where the crime is suspected to have been committed. They should also be given the right to acquire information on the nature and the cause of them being accused. In addition, the accused has the right to acquire the information on time so as to prepare for their defense. The defendant will always remain innocent until proven guilty and so the constitution protects them from being harassed in any way. Moreover, the accused should not be forced to give evidence against themselves and evidence that can incriminate them in their cases (Steven, 1989). The defendants also have the right not to be placed in jeopardy and also to remain silent and should not be forced to speak.
The jury selected should be deemed to be a fair and an unbiased jury. The jurors are very important in a trial since they are the determining factor to whether the accused is guilty or not of the crimes charged against them. During the selection, the chosen people should be proved to be fair and unbiased and should be from the state where the crime was committed and the trial is being held. For a fair and unbiased juror selection, witnesses or any other persons who have expressed opinions on the case should not be sworn in as jurors. Secondly, people whose belief and views prelude them from abiding with the law as stated by the court instructions are deemed not eligible to serve as jurors in a case.
Attorneys should seek information both positive and negative on the jurors set to determine their clients’ fate and be sure of their competence. The selected jurors should be questioned on their beliefs, attitude and backgrounds to determine if they are fair and unbiased (Wagner, 1989). Jurors’ point of view on different cases should be taken into account during the selection process and the response given during this exercise will determine their competence. Before the jurors are sworn in, it should be proven beyond reasonable doubt through questioning that they are not in favor of prejudice. The selected jurors must be educated on the facts of the law during the voir dire questioning and this will determine if they are the right people for the trial
Jury trials are mostly used to give verdicts on given criminal cases in many states. They only use the evidence presented in court to come to a conclusion and give a verdict at the end. The fate of the accused person in a jury trial is always in the hands of 12 people and they are supposed to remain impartial as they examine the evidence to give their verdict.
Wagner, W. (1989). Art of Advocacy: Jury Selection. California: Times mirror Books.
Steven, B. (1989). Trial by Jury. New York: American Lawyers Books.
Godfrey, D. L. (1997). We the Jury. New York: Prometheus Books.