Rules and Laws Rules and laws are formally recognized customs and practice binding upon a group of people. These rules and laws are established to control the way the groups of people act. Exist everywhere! The world without rules and laws would be a confusing place. People would act as they pleased, only looking out for themselves. Crime and violence as we know it would be common because no rules or laws would exist making those actions crimes. We have trials in order to allow the people, represented by an attorney, and the person accused of breaking the law, the defendant, to present evidence to a judge or jury.
Rules and Laws A jury is a group of individuals form the community in which we live who are asked to listen to a trial and decide whether a defendant is guilty or innocent of breaking the law. A jury decides a case based on the evidence presented and the rules and laws involved in the case. As you observe a trial in progress, you will see the following people: Judge Plaintiff Plaintiff’s attorney Defendant Defendant’s attorney Court reporter Court clerk Deputy sheriff Witnesses Jurors, if the trials is jury trial
Who’s Who in the Courtroom Judge A public officer appointed to preside over the court and administer the law. In a jury trial, it is the judge’s responsibility to instruct the jury about the laws that apply to the case. Court Clerk A court officer who files pleadings, motions, judgments, and keeps records of evidence and court proceedings. Bailiff A court officer who maintains order in the courtroom and has custody of the jury and the prisoners. The bailiff announces the opening and closing of court, calls witnesses, and maintains security for the judge and court staff. The bailiff also is in charge of the jury and sees that there are no interferences with their deliberations. Court Reporter A person who documents all testimony during court proceedings, or at trial related proceedings such as pre-motions and depositions.
Who’s Who in the Courtroom Plaintiff A person or party who brings a legal action, or files a complaint, for the purpose of obtaining a legal remedy. In a criminal case, the plaintiff is the government. Defendant A person or party being sued or accused of a crime. The defendant is presumed to be innocent unless the evidence proves that she or he is guilty. Plaintiff’s Attorney An attorney who represents the party who complains or brings suit in a legal action. In a criminal case, the plaintiff’s attorney is the government prosecutor. Defense Attorney An attorney who represents and acts in the defendant’s best legal interest. In criminal cases, persons or parties may have the right to a public defender.
Who’s Who in the Courtroom Witness A person who takes an oath to tell the truth, and then answers questions about the case. Witnesses might be asked about what they saw, heard, or know. They might also be asked to identify pictures, documents, or other exhibits entered in the trial. Jury A group of citizens who are at least eighteen years of age and represent a cross section of the community. It is the jury’s responsibility to listen and carefully consider the evidence, follow the judge’s instructions about the laws that apply to the case, and render a fair and impartial decision based on the facts of the case. Observers Most trials are open to observers. Generally the people that attend a trial have an interest in the case... either in the people involved or if they care about the issues raised. Courtroom decorum is important for those watching. They can be asked to leave if they are not respectful of the court.
Courtroom Vocabulary Relevance Evidence must be relevant. It must have something to do with proving the case. Hearsay Not usually allowed as evidence. It is something a witness may have heard about, but did not hear or see firsthand. Opinion Generally not allowed as evidence. Witnesses are to stick to the facts. Unless witnesses qualify as experts, their opinions, or what they think about those facts, are not acceptable as evidence. Speculation, Conclusions Speculation, or someone’s idea about what might have happened, is not allowed. A witness cannot jump to conclusions that are not based on what the witness experienced.
Courtroom Vocabulary Affidavit A written statement of facts confirmed by the oath of the party making it, before a notary or officer having authority to administer oaths. Brief A written statement submitted by the lawyer for each side in a case that explains to the judges why they should decide the case or a particular part of a case in favor of that lawyer's client. Case law The law as laid down in cases that have been decided in the decisions of the courts. Counsel Legal advice; a term used to refer to lawyers in a case
Courtroom Vocabulary Deposition An oral statement made before an officer authorized by law to administer oaths. Such statements are often taken to examine potential witnesses, to obtain discovery, or to be used later in trial. Docket A log containing brief entries of court proceedings. Pro se A Latin term meaning "on one's own behalf"; in courts, it refers to persons who present their own cases without lawyers. Voir dire The process by which judges and lawyers select a petit jury from among those eligible to serve, by questioning them to determine knowledge of the facts of the case and a willingness to decide the case only on the evidence presented in court. "Voir dire" is a phrase meaning "to speak the truth."
Steps in a Jury Trial 1.Selection of the Jury 2.The Trial 3.The Judge's Charge 4.Deliberation 5.The Verdict
1.Selection of the Jury Jurors called for the voir dire Voir dire - is used to determine if any juror is biased and/or cannot deal with the issues fairly, or if there is cause not to allow a juror to serve. Jurors are sworn in
2. The Trial The Judge may deliver remarks to the jury Attorneys give their opening statement In their opening statements, attorneys representing both sides introduce their case to the judge/jury as clearly and persuasively as possible. It is given in the future tense, as in "testimony will show" or "evidence will show." The statement is not intended to be argumentative, but rather to lay out a general picture of the facts.
2. The Trial - Cont. Questions to consider during opening arguments: Why are you being taken to trial or being tried? In what ways has the defendant done injury to your client? In what way is the plaintiff mistaken in its case against you? Why should your client be found not guilty, or why should the defendant be found guilty? What evidence do you intend to present and what witnesses to you intend to call to support your case? How will you prepare to counter the opposing side's opening arguments during the next phase?
2. The Trial – Cont. Witnesses are called for direct and cross-examination and exhibits are presented. In this phase, the prosecution and then the defense lays out its case.
2. The Trial – Cont. Questions for attorneys to consider: Why are you questioning these witnesses? What do you hope their testimony will show? What questions will you ask? What questions will you try to avoid? Why? How might you try to ask questions in a way that might help the truth come to light? What else do you need to consider in questioning the witnesses?
2. The Trial – Cont. Questions for witnesses to consider: What is your background and/or relationship to the case? How do you feel about the defendant and the case? How does the case affect you directly? Do you have any stake in the outcome? Do you have any particular motive here?
2. The Trial – Cont. Cross Examination and Redirect Before the trial, attorneys should try to anticipate witness testimony to prepare a list of prospective questions to ask when you cross-examine and redirect witnesses. During the trial, take note of witness testimony so that you are ready for cross-examination and redirect.
2. The Trial – Cont. Closing Statements Here the attorneys summarize their main arguments, highlighting the main pieces of evidence in the case, to try to persuade the judge/jury to support your perspective and rule in your favor.
2. The Trial – Cont. Questions to consider during closing arguments: How did the evidence support your argument? What specific points did opposing counsel offer that you can directly refute? What do you hope to gain from winning the case? Why should the judge/jury decide in your favor?
3. The Judge’s Charge The Judge instructs the jury as to what laws apply to the case and what those laws mean. The Judge explains to the jury appropriate rules of law that it is to consider in weighing the evidence. As a general rule, the Plaintiff (must meet the burden of proof in order to prevail
4. Deliberation & Verdict The jury goes into a private room to discuss the case and reach a decision. They may talk to no one except the Judge if they have questions. The judge/jury considers the evidence Questions to consider as a Juror: What evidence was most compelling? Why? Which side made a stronger case?
5. The Verdict The jury returns to the courtroom and the foreperson announces the decision. The attorneys may ask that the jury be polled. Jurors deliver a verdict and, if appropriate, a recommended sentence. The judge might prepare a statement to explain the verdict and put it into context.
Court Procedure 1.Calling of Case by Bailiff: "All rise. The Lee County Court is now in session. Honorable Judge ________ presiding. 2.Opening Statement: First the Plaintiff's Attorney Second the Defendant's Attorney 3.Plaintiff's Case: First Witness is called to testify (direct examination) Defendant’s Attorney Cross-Examines Plaintiff’s First Witness Second Witness is called to testify (direct examination) Defendant’s Attorney Cross-Examines Plaintiff’s Second Witness Process continues until Plaintiff’s Attorney has called all of their witnesses, when all have been called the Plaintiff’s Attorney shall say, “No further witnesses.”
Court Procedure 4.Defendant's Case: First Witness is called to testify (direct examination) Plaintiff’s Attorney Cross-Examines Defendant’s First Witness Second Witness is called to testify (direct examination) Plaintiff’s Attorney Cross-Examines Defendant’s Second Witness Process continues until Defendant’s Attorney has called all of their witnesses, when all have been called the Defendant’s Attorney shall say, “No further witnesses.” 5.Closing Statement: First the Plaintiff's Attorney Second the Defendant's Attorney 6.Jury Instructions: The Judge explains to the jury appropriate rules of law that it is to consider in weighing the evidence. As a general rule, the plaintiff must meet the burden of proof in order to prevail. 7.Jury Verdict