In courtrooms across the nation, people accused of committing a crime are asked: “Are you pleading guilty to the charges?” When you rightfully answer NO, you may be alarmed to hear the judge set your case for a jury trial. Being placed on a trial calendar could mean many things. You may have angered a bully judge. You may have run into an abusive prosecutor. Regardless, you need to be ready for your trial court date. Read the info below and contact our office immediately to discuss what you should expect when you return to court.
What happens before my trail court date?
Before your trial starts, a judge will hear any pre-trial motions filed by your attorney or the prosecutor. For instance, your attorney can file motions to exclude evidence the State wants to use against you before a trial even starts. This could include items seized during a search, or a statement made to the police.
After all pre-trial motions have been addressed, you will begin the Jury Selection. This phase of your case is also known as Voir Dire (pronounced however your judge likes to pronounce it). During Jury Selection, you can ask questions to a group of people selected for jury duty. These questions are asked to identify which jurors are unbiased and capable of presuming you are innocent unless the State can prove otherwise.
Numerous studies have found that pre-trial bias and a pre-trial understanding of ‘reasonable doubt’ will significantly impact a juror’s verdict. For that reason, picking the right people on your jury can be the difference between winning and losing.
During the opening statements, you can introduce your story and your defense to the jury. Evidence is not presented during opening statements. Instead, you give the jurors a preview of what they should expect to hear at trial.
The State has the burden of proving your guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. For that reason they must present witnesses during your trial. You will have an opportunity to question the State’s witnesses as well.
Evidence and testimony will only be admitted if the judge finds that the witness is properly qualified. For example, your mother will not be allowed to testify that your former lover is mentally insane. For that same reason, If the State wants to use DNA evidence, they need a DNA expert. Likewise, if you want to introduce medical evidence, then you will need a medical expert.
What if a witness does not come to court?
A judge can order the arrest of a witness who was properly served with a subpoena but does not come to court. Many prosecutors take great offense to a witness who refuses to come to court. Consequently, a witness can be arrested and held in jail until they testify at trial.
Will I have to testify at my trial court date?
You can decide whether or not to testify at your own trial. This is solely your decision to make. Testifying in your own defense can lead to many bad outcomes. For instance, jurors will focus on your performance from the stand as opposed to whether or not the State proved their case beyond a reasonable doubt.
Keep in mind “your performance” as a witness can be impacted by inexperience and anxiety. Testifying with your liberty at stake can be an overwhelming burden. In contrast, the prosecutor’s witnesses attend multiple trainings teaching them how to present well in front of a jury.
Because the prosecutor has the burden to prove your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, they are allowed to speak before and after your closing arguments. It is at this time that you summarize your case to the jury, and remind them which facts support your Not Guilty verdict.
Jury Deliberations & The Verdict
After both parties have completed their closing arguments, the judge will instruct the jury about the law and the deliberation process. In Georgia, all twelve jurors, or 6 jurors in a misdemeanor case, must agree to convict or acquit. It must be a unanimous decision. If the jury informs the judge they were unable to come to an agreement, the judge will declare a mistrial and your case will be back on a regular trial calendar.
Are you ready for your trial court date? Contact the Awad Legal Team to schedule a consultation and discuss your options.