The Trial Process
Before the trial begins, the attorneys will need to choose a jury. As stated earlier, this process is called “voir dire”. The attorneys on both sides will present questions to the potential jurors to determine whether they will be fair and impartial. After choosing a jury, the trial will begin. Lawyers on both sides will begin with opening statements. During the trial, both sides will present evidence and witnesses who will testify as to what they saw or what they know. Both sides will have the right to cross-examine all witnesses presented by the other side.
Prior to this presenting of evidence, your attorney may have requested that certain evidence be excluded. This is called filing a “motion in limine." After all evidence is presented, both sides have an opportunity to give closing arguments. However, prior to closing arguments, and immediately after the prosecution rests, the defense has an opportunity to file a motion to dismiss the charges if he/she believes that the prosecution did not present enough evidence – even if the jury believes the evidence – to support a guilty verdict. Let's discuss that:
Acquittals by Judges in Jury Trials
When evidence of a defendant's guilt is predominantly weak, a judge can then grant a “judgment of acquittal”, also known as “judgment notwithstanding the verdict”. This is pretty much the same as an acquittal by a jury.
Insufficient Evidence of Guilt
The motion for judgment of acquittal stands if the claim that the evidence given at trial was insufficient for a conviction. The defense argues that no reasonable jury could find guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. The defendant can ask that judge to acquit on all of the charges or just some of them.
The Judge's Decision
In making his/her decision, the judge must determine that the evidence clearly failed to establish guilt. He/she can only consider the evidence presented at trial. If the judge does grant the motion for judgment of acquittal, the charges will be dismissed and the defendant will be released. Because of the “double jeopardy” rule, the prosecution will not be allowed to try this case again. If the above motion is not filed, finally, the jury will decide if the defendant is guilty or not guilty. If the jury finds the defendant guilty, it must be “beyond a reasonable doubt”.
If the jury finds the defendant to be innocent, it is called an “acquittal” and at that time the defendant will be released and is free to go. If this is the case, the defendant can never be tried again for the same crime. This is what we call “double jeopardy”. If the defendant is found\ guilty, it simply means the jury was not convinced of your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
However, it will still show on the defendant's record, together with the acquittal. If the defendant if found guilty, the proceedings will continue on to a sentencing hearing.
Do you have questions about a case? Visalia and Bakersfield area criminal defense attorneys at Martens & Brusseau can assist you with criminal charges. With years of criminal defense experience, our firm has handled thousands of cases. Attorneys here have the skills and knowledge needed to defend your rights. Serving the Visalia, Fresno, and Bakersfield areas, Martens & Brusseau can provide expert criminal defense counsel. CONTACT US AT 559-302-9722 OR 661-466-2142 TODAY