When you are charged with a criminal case, you might decide that you want to have your case heard by a jury. This is a fundamental right that is guaranteed by the Sixth Amendment of the United States Constitution. Many people think that it applies to all cases; however, it doesn’t. Only criminal cases that can lead to at least six months in prison are guaranteed a trial before a jury of the defendant’s peers. If you do opt to pursue a jury trial instead of working toward a plea deal, you should have a basic idea of what is going to happen.
Before the trial begins, attorneys from both sides are going to select the jurors. This also includes alternate jurors who hear the entire case but only work on deciding the outcome if one of the main jurors is unable to serve for some reason such as a sudden illness that requires hospitalization.
When choosing a jury, the goal is to have a panel that represents a fair and accurate cross section of the community. It doesn’t mean people who have the same or similar profile of the defendant. In order to make this happen, either attorney can challenge potential jurors, but most of these challenges will need a legal basis. Each lawyer is allowed only a specific number of challenges that don’t have a legal basis.
Once the jury is chosen, the trial can begin. Both sides will present their case, call witnesses and present evidence. When the trial is completed, the jurors receive instructions about their duties. They can then go to a secluded room where they will deliberate. The decision they reach is read in open court. This can be that the defendant is either guilty or not guilty on each charge presented.
Your defense should show the jurors why they have reason to doubt the claims that the prosecutor is making. It is up to the prosecutor to prove their case; you have to introduce reasonable doubt.