The modern practice of law is a culmination of rituals that have been in existence for a long time and has evolved through the years to cooperate with other rituals from foreign lands. Trial procedures are uniform all over the land. Trials are of many types. They could be criminal trials, civil trials among others. A process of events is followed from the time the trial starts to the time it ends. When there is inability of two parties to settle out of court then a trial is inevitable. After being arrested by the police, individuals are arraigned in court to be given a chance for bail. This gives the person the chance for bail. After the bail hearing the individual can be set free or remanded until the day that the court decides to hear their case. Normally a person is remanded in jail if the court has a reason to believe that the individual might not show up for the next hearing. For a person to be granted bail he must also show that he will not re commit or commit another crime while on bail. Terms and conditions are set such as the depositing of passport to the court; the accused should also maintain a reliable contact in the form of informing the court of one’s address. The accused might also be required to deposit some surety which can be in form of cash. This denies the individual the chance to flee from the country. However there are factors that the judge has to look and consider. It may make it hard fro an individual to be granted bail if he/she is facing an outstanding warrant, repeated the mistake of being arrested after failing to show up on a previous bail hearing, the individual has a problem which involves immigration or was previously arrested in possession of a weapon (Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences 68).
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Strategies that are normally used by others in order to show that they are not a flight risk includes a lawyer showing and giving evidence to the court that one has enough attachments to the community that he/she is currently residing. The evidence might include documents such as proof of ownership of property within the state and also witnesses in the form of family and friends. At this level the lawyer is the person doing most of the talking. Body language plays a great role during the bail hearing as one should look reliable. It may not augur well to the judge if one looks sleep deprived or shabby (Bergman 245). During a bail hearing the case is not heard in detail but the lawyer might argue the case by pointing out weaknesses in the case by the prosecution team. This is for the purpose of having the amount paid in bail reduced. In some states, the court may call for the services of an external agency whose main task is to establish the individual’s connection with the community in which he/she resides in. This assists the judge in making their judgment. The agency will communicate with the arrested individual and ask them to provide information about their friends and family including their contact numbers. Most states do not provide bail for persons classified as juveniles. The major reason for this is that it is hard for the parents to ransom their children.
After a bail hearing, the individual might be granted bail or be remanded. A court date is fixed and the type of trial known.. In a criminal proceeding, the accused could also request for a speedy trial which is guaranteed under the United States constitution and gives him/her the assurance that their trial will not be subjected to a lengthy imprisonment before they get to a fair trial. The length of time that the accused can be imprisoned before a fair trial is handed varies from state to state and can b described by statute or can also be defined by the law courts using the sixth’s amendments’ substantiation theory. A speedy trial is normally handed down to the accused if the time from which the crime was supposedly done to the time of his/her arrest is long. The accused may undergo a bench trial, whereby a judge is the person who is responsible for hearing and deciding for what type of punishment should be awarded. A bench trial can be chosen by the defendant if they have a strong feeling that they will not get a fair hearing if his/her trial is subjected to a jury trial. In most countries, a bench trial is mostly used A jury trial is a trial where the case is decided a group of persons who are chosen randomly. Deliberations are made by persons of the jury and they vote in order to decide the fate of the accused. A jury comprises of 12 people and if 75% of the persons within the jury agree then a verdict can said to have been reached.
Pre Trial Process/ Preliminary Hearing
There are some instances where a pre trial is necessary and this is set for the purposes of determining the evidence of facts regarding the case and also any other information that could assist either party. The pre trial case establishes the preceding court dates that will be set by the judge. The lawyer or attorney may also want to file a motion of suppression which establishes to keep secret other facts that may hinder the due process of fair trial from the jury. There are also cases where there may be persons in the courtroom who may not understand the language being used during the trial hence it is important that an interpreter be sought. The purpose of a pre trial is to try and resolve between the prosecution and the defense in a manner that will be amicable by both. The pre trial process should not however try to stop the defendant from getting justice through not obtaining a trial.
The trial Process
Once a court date has been set by the judge the accused takes times to build up his case as well as the prosecutions. If it is a jury trial, the jury by this time will have been summoned for jury duty. The process of orientation takes place as the jurors are also assigned a group/panel number that assigns them to groups of six to eighteen jurors (Berman 89).
Before the trial begins, the judge sends for the jurors through the deputy sheriff to be questioned and be evaluated on their ability to be impartial to the case. This is also done by the attorney who in this case may be looking for a juror who may be sympathetic towards their client. A final number of about twelve jurors are chosen, with two extra persons. The two persons will not deliberate on the case but will take the place of any juror who may miss to appear during the court trial (Cole 502).
Opening arguments or statements are made first by the attorney representing the plaintiff (the person who is responsible for filing the case), to the jury and this is followed by the defense attorney. This sets out the trial environment and any rationale for both parties. The opening statement is to serve the purpose of setting out the facts to the jurors. The jurors are not supposed to use any other information apart the one being presented in court (Champion 273). Opening statements are limited to evidence and not to information that is known outside court. Each attorney illustrates the opening statement in a manner that will favor their clients. Statements are vivid and not meant to be argumentative (Cederbaums 69)
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This is followed by the testimony from the plaintiff (civil case) or prosecution (criminal case). The prosecution side is given the chance of presenting their case and witnesses. The witnesses are also analyzed by other attorneys who are participating in the case (Fitzmaurice 208). The plaintiff/ prosecution side may also call experts e.g. ballistics experts and others in order to strengthen their case against the accused. This gives them the chance to present their justification to the court. The defense lawyer is given the chance to discredit the witness statements through cross examination. There have been instances where cases have been thrown or dismissed because the eyewitnesses have been found to be unreliable and contradicting themselves. After the plaintiff has presented their case, the defense side is also given the chance to present their witnesses and also experts who are also cross examined by the plaintiff attorney. It is at this stage that evidence is presented to the court and the jurors are also given the chance to see the evidence physically which can be presented through the photographs and other physical forms of evidence. Witnesses and experts can also be recalled at the judge’s discretion to be interrogated further in case something was not clarified (Fradella 507).
After expert witnesses and evidence have been produced, the attorneys are given the opportunity to make closing arguments. This is the final opportunity to address the jury and make them sympathetic towards their client. At this point, the plaintiff (civil case) or prosecutor (criminal case) goes first to make their arguments through a thorough analysis of evidence and witnesses presented during the trial process. This is followed by the defense attorney who follows the same procedure and tries to sway the jury to make a favorable verdict. The prosecution/plaintiff is given the final opportunity to punch holes in the defense’s closing arguments (Levinkind 93)
Deliberations by the jury are made after the judge has dismissed them with clear instructions on how to evaluate the case. Normal instructions will include a warning to them on how to avoid bias during the deliberations. These deliberations may take hours to even days based on the complexities involved in the case. A verdict is reached once a unanimous decision i.e. all twelve jurors agree (Neubauer 82). However there have been cases in the past where verdicts have been reached without a unanimous decision. In the U.S., only Oregon and Louisiana have laws that permit verdict decisions that are not unanimous. A situation where a unanimous decision cannot be reached, a mistrial is acknowledged. Such a jury is known as a hung jury. A case involving a new panel of jury can be retried. In any deliberation a foreperson is first selected. This person is in charge of leading the deliberations and chairing of any discussion towards a speedy and successful conclusion. The first phase of deliberations is done first by the foreperson trying to collect the views of the jurors. This can be done by a show of lifting of hands in order to show consent or disapproval. A consensus is then sought on how a verdict can be reached. Opinions at this stage could differ between the jurors and issues regarding the case could be brought forward for review. Evidence could also be presented again to the jury (Wyness 78). All these discussions and deliberations will culminate in a verdict that to the jury is reasonable. If the case is a civil, another set of jury known as the petit jury will determine any damages and liability that will be compensated by the party responsible (Schmalleger 23).
The Verdict and its repercussions
A verdict is reached after the jury comes up with a unanimous decision and this verdict is delivered to the judge through the deputy sheriff. The verdict is announced in court in the presence of both the defense and plaintiff and also their friends and relatives (Xavier 105). There are instances where the judge does not agree with the verdict reached by the jury and it is at this point that he can exercise his powers to decide the sentence handed down. The judge does this with evidence of justifications.
Any verdict may be followed by implications. Some implications could favor the defense, plaintiff or both. If either party is not happy with a verdict given, they may opt to pursue the matter through appealing in a higher court of law. The appellate court is powerful and is given the task to review earlier decisions made by lower courts. Appeal courts are powerful as their decisions set a precedence for future policies and decisions that will be made by lower courts. If the defense side is found to be guilty they are liable for punishment under the laws of the land. Punishment varies from prison incarcerations payment in the form of monetary means (American Academy of Political and Social Science 59).
The whole process from the pretrial to the verdict delivery is done in the view of the whole public in order to establish credibility to all the sides. This process however varies from country to country as for example in bench trial is normally the mode followed under the British law court systems. The verdict reached is supposed to be fair and punishment awarded should be equal to the crime done.
Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences. Journal of criminal justice, California: Pergamon Press, 1979.
American Academy of Political and Social Science. Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, Volumes 327-332. New York: American Academy of Political and Social Science, 2009.
Bergman, Paul. The Criminal Law Handbook: Know Your Rights, Survive the System California: Nolo, 2008.
Berman, Sara. Represent yourself in court: how to prepare & try a winning case. California: Nolo, 2008
Cederbaums, Juris. Criminal procedure sourcebook, Michigan: Practicing Law Institute, 1970.
Champion, Dean. Criminal Courts: Structure, Process, and Issues, London: Prentice- Hall, 2007.
Cole, George. The American System of Criminal Justice, New York: Cengage Learning, 2006.
Fitzmaurice, Gerald. Law and Procedures of the International Court of Justice, London: Cambridge University Press, 1986.
Fradella, Henry. Criminal Procedure for the Criminal Justice Professional, New York: Cengage Learning, 2008.
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Levinkind, Susan. Legal research: how to find & understand the law. London: Oxford Publishers, 2007.
Neubauer, David. America’s courts and the criminal justice system, London: Wadsworth Publishers, 1996.
Schmalleger, Frank. Criminal justice today: an introductory text for the twenty-first Century. London: Prentice Hall, 2007.
Wyness, Robert. Civil Procedure of the Trial Court in Historical Perspective, New York: The Law book Exchange, Ltd., 2005.
Xavier, Busch. Law and tactics in jury trials: the art of jury persuasion, tested court procedures. New York: Bobbs-Merrill Co., 1998.