Most trials have five stages:
The judge and attorneys question the jurors sent to the courtroom until a panel of twelve is agreed upon by all sides. The questioning is designed to excuse jurors who might have difficulty in rendering a fair and impartial verdict in that particular case.
These are brief statements made by the attorneys to the jury in which the attorneys outline the facts as they see them and what they hope to prove. The attorneys are not considered witnesses and their statements are not evidence. The plaintiff’s attorney in a civil case or the prosecutor in a criminal case gives the first statement and the defense attorney follows.
Presentation of Evidence
Witnesses for the plaintiff in a civil case or for the prosecution in a criminal case testify first, witnesses for the defense testify next and any rebuttal witnesses testify last. Each witness is sworn to tell the truth. The attorney who calls the witness asks questions in direct examination. The attorney for the opposing side then questions the witness in cross-examination. The purpose of this questioning is to elicit evidence. Exhibits and physical objects such as photographs and x-rays are also presented at this time as evidence.
This is the final opportunity for the attorneys to address the jury. The plaintiff’s attorney in a civil case or the prosecutor in a criminal case proceeds first. The attorney analyzes the evidence and attempts to convince the jury to decide in favor of his or her side of the case. The defense attorney follows with his or her argument, attempting to do the same. Finally, the plaintiff’s attorney or prosecutor has the opportunity to present a rebuttal to the defense attorney’s argument.
The judge instructs the jury on the law they must apply in the particular case. Jurors then retire from the courtroom to deliberate in secret. When the jurors reach a verdict, the jury foreman who is elected by fellow jurors informs the deputy sheriff that a decision has been reached. The jury returns to the courtroom and the verdict is read aloud to the parties.