We have all seen television shows depicting courtroom scenes and trials and wondered how accurate it really is. Criminal jury trials in Missouri generally follow a standard order. The trial begins with voir dire, also known as jury selection. This is where the prosecuting attorney and the defense attorney each get an opportunity to speak to the prospective jurors and ask questions to learn more about them. This process, though called jury selection, is more like deselection. Each side can exercise strikes to remove jurors they think will not be favorable to their side.
After a jury panel is selected and sworn in, each side will present opening statements. This allows each side to preview their case to the jurors and give them a better understanding of the factual and legal issues involved in the case. This is not an opportunity to argue the case but rather inform the jury of what evidence and testimony each side reasonably believes will be presented to the jury during the trial.
Next after opening statements is the prosecutor’s case-in-chief. The prosecutor will present his or her case by calling witnesses, presenting testimony through direct examination, and introducing documents and tangible objects into evidence. The defense gets an opportunity to cross-examine each of the prosecutor’s witnesses.
After the prosecutor’s case-in-chief, the defendant will present his case-in-chief, if he chooses to do so. In some cases, the defendant may choose not to present a case-in-chief nor testify himself. The defendant does not have to prove that he or she is innocent so rather than present a case, he may simply choose to challenge the state’s case and witnesses and attempt to create reasonable doubt.
After both sides present their case, the jury will be read the jury instructions, which is the law that the jury will be required to follow during its deliberations.
Lastly, each side will conclude with closing arguments. After closing arguments have been presented, the jury will deliberate the case and ultimately announce the verdict in open court.
The St. Louis criminal defense trial attorneys of Henderson & Waterkotte, P.C. have successfully defended clients at trial ranging from first degree murder to misdemeanor cases. If you have been charged with a crime, call us today to schedule a free consultation.