The Six Phases of a Criminal Trial

Posted by John G. Mitchell III | Nov 24, 2015 | 0 Comments

If a person is accused of a crime and facing a criminal trial, the trial will proceed through a process. A complete criminal trial usually consists of six main phases. Here is a look at each one:

1. Choosing a Jury for a Criminal Trial

During jury selection, the judge and the attorneys will question potential jurors about matters related to the case such as ideological beliefs, life experiences, and other biases. Some potential jurors may be excluded by the attorneys.

2. Opening Statements

Both the prosecutor and the defense attorneys will have an opportunity to make an opening statement. This is the first impression they have to make to the jury. The opening statement typically consists of the facts of the case and a guide for the jury as to what the attorney hopes to show.

3. Witness Testimony and Cross-Examination

During the trial, both the prosecution and defense will present evidence and witnesses. The other side will have an opportunity to rebut the evidence or cross-examine the witnesses. After both the prosecution and defense have had an opportunity to present their cases and to challenge the evidence presented by the other, both sides “rest.”

4. Closing Arguments

Like the opening statement, the closing argument is a chance for both sides to sum up their case. This is the final opportunity for the parties to address the jury.

5. Jury Instruction

After closing arguments have been made, the judge gives the jury a set of legal standards it will need to make its decision. Based on the criminal charges, the judge will decide what legal standards apply. The judge will also explain what reasonable doubt means.

6. Jury Deliberation and Verdict

The jury as a group will consider the case during deliberation. This process can last several hours or several weeks. There are actually 3 verdicts that may be reached by the jury: Guilty, Not Guilty, and Mistrial because the jury cannot come to a unanimous decision. In this instance the defendant may have to go through another trial.

There are further phases that take place if the defendant is found guilty including sentencing, and possibly appeals.
Throughout the trial, the judge may be asked in front of the jury to decide questions of law. Usually these questions are regarding objections to testimony. Occasionally the judge may ask the jurors to leave the courtroom briefly while the lawyers present their cases to have objections either granted or dismissed.

Call an experienced Murfreesboro criminal defense attorney

You have the right to fight the charges against you. For a strong defense strategy, call Mitchell & Mitchell today at 615-896-4211 or contact us online. We represent those accused of crimes throughout central Tennessee and we will take an aggressive approach to your case. Contact us today for a free consultation.

About the Author

John G. Mitchell III

John “Jack” Mitchell III is a partner at the firm. He is admitted to practice in Tennessee and the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee. Jack graduated from Washington & Lee University with a B.S. in Business Administration in 1987 and received his J.D. from the Unive...


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