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The 6 Steps of the Criminal Trial Process

Criminal trials are intriguing, as courtroom theatrics are often displayed and tension normally runs very high. All criminal trials follow the same basic format from start to finish, even though they are all unique in their own ways.

Jury Selection

In Texas, jury selection is the first step of the criminal trial process. Potential jurors are questioned by attorneys from both sides to determine which individuals are the best fits. This ensures a fair trial because it eliminates those who have a potential conflict of interest.

Opening Statements

During opening statements, attorneys for both sides address the jury and state what they expect to show during the course of the trial. These statements set the stage for the actual trial that is to follow. Since the government has the burden of proof, the district attorney will give an opening statement first, followed by the attorney for the defendant.

Trial Phase: Witnesses and Exhibits

During this phase of the trial, witnesses are called to the stand and then cross-examined by opposing counsel. Attorneys for both sides will also attempt to introduce any evidence they might have for the jury to examine. The state will present its case-in-chief first, followed by the defendant’s case-in-chief. At the end of this phase, one or both sides may ask for the judge to rule in their favor as a matter of law.

Closing Arguments

After all the evidence has been heard, closing arguments will be presented to the jury. This is where attorneys for both sides wrap up the evidence that was presented and make a final appeal to the jurors in order to sway their vote. Closing arguments are not testimony and are not considered as evidence.

Jury Instruction and Deliberation

After closing arguments, the judge will “charge” the jury. This involves giving them instructions as to how they are to interpret the law and any evidence they have heard. After receiving their instructions, the court bailiff accompanies the jury to the deliberation room where they will discuss the case among themselves. They must reach a verdict unanimously. After doing so, the jury will reconvene inside the courtroom and read the verdict to the defendant.

The Reading of the Verdict

The judge will ask the jury foreman if they have reached a verdict. The foreman will state in the affirmative and then announce the verdict publicly. The court will then be dismissed.

There is a lot riding on any criminal trial. It is important for each step to be executed properly in order to ensure that people are not wrongly accused of criminal activity.

For a thorough explanation of the criminal trial process, contact Shahin Zamir at 713-223-8900 to schedule a free legal consultation.