When criminal defendants in California have decided that the best option in their case is to push it all the way to a jury trial, they may have more questions about the actual procedure of such a trial than they have answers. So, what are the typical steps in a criminal jury trial?
Well, for starters, the members of the jury must be selected. The court will call in a large number of individuals from the community and then bring them in for a process known as “voir dire” or simply “jury selection.” The prosecutor, defense attorney and the judge will be able to ask these potential members of the jury many questions in order to determine their ability to be fair and impartial jurors. Once the appropriate number of jurors are selected and sworn in, the trial can begin.
Openings statements are the first step after the jury is in place. In this step, each side can lay out a vision of how the evidence will be presented and what that evidence will prove. From there, the actual presentation of evidence will begin, mostly with witness testimony.
After both the prosecution and defense have had the opportunity to present all of the evidence they wish to show, each side will get a chance to make a closing argument. This is the last chance for each side to convince the jury that their version of events and the evidence they presented is, in fact, the truth, or, in the case of the defense, to convince the jury that the prosecution has not met the high burden of proving each element of the crime charged “beyond a reasonable doubt.”
After closing arguments, the judge will give the jury many instructions on how they must move forward with attempting to reach a verdict. Then, the jury will deliberate in private to attempt to reach a verdict of “guilty” or “not guilty.”