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Criminal Trial Process from Jury Selection to Sentencing

The criminal trial process is a dynamic and involving activity that involves direct and indirect association from different parties. The process can go for a period of one month or less, to several months. The process of the criminal trial involves parties such as the lawyers, the judge, the jury, the defendant, and the plaintiff.

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In special cases when the process begins after the defendant is ‘mirandized’, his or she is adequately informed of basic rights before the case commences (Tarr, 2009). Thus, this reflective treatise attempts to explicitly explore the outline of the criminal trial process from the selection of the jury to sentencing. Besides, the paper touches on major and minor steps in the criminal trial process and options available to the defendants at each step.

In the criminal trial process, the jury forms the part of the independent fact-finding agent for assessing evidence and information presented before the court by the two parties. From the submission by the jury and the laws in place, the judge is in a position to pass a verdict. Selection of the jury is the initial phase of trial and involves picking of jurors in a screening procedure called ‘voir dire’ (Tarr, 2009). The number of jurors differs depending on the nature of the case at hand.

However, the number often ranges from six to twelve. During this process of selection, the presiding judge is tasked with the responsibility of clarifying law principles, reading an accusatory statement, and interviewing probable jurors. The presence of the judge is vital during the entire screening process. The prospective jurors are then questioned to establish independence and minimize personal knowledge and biases which may eventually influence her or his independent ability to make an objective judgment.

In all courts across the world, the bottom line question to potential jurors is “is there a reason why you should not sit on this particular case” (Carp, Stidham, & Manning, 2010). At this stage, the attorneys are permitted by the law to eliminate or challenge a prospect when the possibility of biasness and personal knowledge is identified and justified.

In addition, under the tag of ‘peremptory’ challenges, the lawyers from either side of the case have the privilege to arbitrarily disqualify a prospective juror as long as the reasons given are not discriminatory. The selection process ends when all the attorneys for both parties approve the jury composition. For deliberation issues, additional alternative jurors are recruited to serve as a replacement when emergencies or illnesses arise during the trial process.

The next step upon completion of the selection jury process is the oath and preliminary instructions. The selected jurors are passed through an oath of fairness and impartiality to oblige each juror to apply objectivity and logic throughout the case. After this, the judge reads an admonition to the team dos and don’ts during the trial process.

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Following the completion of the selection process, the criminal trial then official commences establishing a legal verdict of the offense committed. Depending on the magnitude of the case and laws at hand, punishment for a guilty party may vary from imprisonment, fine, or even probation.

The Outline of the Trial Process

Opening statement

Upon delivery of preliminary instructions by the presiding judge, the prosecutor will outline charges and evidence before the court. At this stage, the defendant’s attorney is permitted by the law to compose an opening statement. However, the attorney is at liberty to decline the offer.

People’s Direct

During this stage, the prosecution will be given an opportunity to table its proof. Since the prosecutor represents the interest of the state, proof offered may be witness testimony and other physical records or objects recovered from the scene of the accident.


The defense attorney will then cross-examine witnesses with periodic redirects by the prosecutor until all his or her witnesses testify.

Defense Case

Depending on the nature of the case, the number of a witness may be as many as the time frame for the court allows or none. However, the defendant is at liberty to testify or not. During this phase, the prosecutor and defense counsel will ask questions and then rest their case upon exhausting the witnesses.


The defense case opens doors to rebuttal especially when the council raises a specific defense. However, evidence provided during this stage cannot be saved for summation.


During summation, the defense attorney is at liberty to state summation argument. In the process, he or she may question credibility of evidences and witnesses for the case. The prosecutor is then allowed to offer summation reasons to authenticate his or her evidence that implicates the defendant beyond doubt.

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Jury Instructions: Upon conclusion of the abridgment arguments, the presiding judge will explain to the jury concepts like “presumption of innocence” (Carp, Stidham, & Manning, 2010), “beyond a reasonable doubt” (Tarr, 2009), and “burden of proof” (Neubauer & Meinhold, 2012).


The space then opens to jury deliberations on authenticity of evidences and statements of witnesses and arguments by attorneys from both parties. Depending on the jury’s unanimously vote, as guilty or not guilty, the final verdict by the presiding judge must be aligned to the jury’s decision.


Carp, R., Stidham, R., & Manning, L. (2010). Judicial Process in America (8th ed.). New York: CQ Press.

Neubauer, D., & Meinhold, S. (2012). Judicial Process: Law, Courts, and Politics in the United States (6th ed.). Alabama: Cengage Learning.

Tarr, A. (2009). Judicial Process and Judicial Policymaking (5th ed.). Alabama: Cengage Learning.

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