For most people, a criminal jury trial is a totally unknown and scary prospect. What is likely to happen and how can you prepare yourself?
The case will begin with jury selection. A jury panel will be brought into the court room and seated in the gallery. All of the prospective jurors on the panel will be sworn in. The clerk will call the names of 21 jurors in the case of a felony or 15 jurors in the case of a gross misdemeanor or misdemeanor. The prospective jurors will be seated in the jury box and the judge will begin asking questions of the entire panel and each individual looking for bias. After the judge has finished, questioning will be turned over to the defense lawyer and finally to the prosecutor. The lawyers will then exercise what are called peremptory challenges and systematically strike or remove unwanted jurors from the trial of the case. The criminal defense lawyer will want to remove all jurors with an agenda who may negatively influence the remaining jurors. In Minnesota, the defense has 5 challenges and the prosecution has 3. The jury will consist of the remaining jurors who have not been removed by the lawyers. In a long trial, there will usually be one alternate juror to replace any juror who gets sick or can not continue to attend the trial for some reason.
The jurors will be given some preliminary instructions by the judge and the case will then proceed to opening statements. The prosecutor address the jury first followed by the defense lawyer. Opening statements are for the purpose of providing the jury with a road map of what each party expects the evidence to show.
Next, the prosecution will present its case by calling witnesses and introducing evidence during the trial. The prosecution is required by law to prove all of the elements of the criminal charges beyond a reasonable doubt. Once the prosecution has finished presenting evidence and rests its case, the defense may call witness and introduce evidence but has no obligation to do so as a defendant in a criminal case is presumed to be innocent of the charges and does not have to prove his innocence.
After each party has presented its case, the jurors will hear closing arguments from the lawyers beginning with the prosecution. The criminal defense attorney will argue next and will usually expose the weakness in the prosecution case followed by the strengths of the defense case. In Minnesota, the prosecution will have an opportunity to make a rebuttal argument after the defense argument. The prosecution will have the last word in the case. A Minnesota criminal defense lawyer has no right to make a rebuttal argument.
The jury will be given its final instructions by the judge and retire to the jury room to deliberations. The defendant and his or her lawyer will be required to stay close by the courthouse in order to promptly return if the jury has any questions or has reached its verdict.
If you are charged with a crime and need an experienced Minnesota criminal defense lawyer, please contact Robert J. Shane for a Free Initial Consultation. Mr. Shane has 28 years of criminal defense experience and will defend your freedom. Call now at (612) 339-1025 or visit his website for more information at www.CriminalLawyerMinnesota.com.