What Happens at a TrialHow long a trial lasts differs from trial to trial. However, all trials follow this process: Jury selection (if a jury is involved), opening statements, the plaintiff’s proof, direct examination, cross examination, the defendant’s proof, closing statements, jury instruction (if a jury is involved), and the jury’s verdict or the judge’s ruling.

Unless a trial is only before a judge, a jury must be selected before a trial even can begin. Both the attorneys representing the plaintiffs and the defendants ask a group of possible jurors a series of questions about the potential jurors’ beliefs, perspectives, and experiences in order to prevent jurors from prejudging the case and to root out wrongful biases. Both sides can ask a certain number of potential jurors to be dismissed. Ultimately, however, twelve individuals, and sometimes alternates, are selected to serve as jurors in trials involving juries.

Both parties then deliver their opening statements. With opening statements, both parties generally give the court or jury a roadmap of what the proof likely is. After opening statements are delivered, the plaintiffs produce evidence, introduce witnesses, and make arguments beneficial to their side of the case. With the evidence and witnesses, the plaintiffs attempt to prove that the defendants committed the offense or offenses that affect the plaintiffs. Similarly, the defendants produce evidence and witnesses of their own, and they attempt to prove that the plaintiffs are wrong or assert a defense.

Next, the process of direct examination and cross examination occurs. With direct examination, both parties explain their evidence – which can include photographs, videos, and documents – to the court and ask their witnesses questions, which help their side of the case. With cross examination, the opposing side often talks about the evidence in a different way and ask the other side’s witnesses questions – which can contradict witnesses’ earlier statements, make holes in witnesses’ testimony, cause witnesses to lose credibility, and the like –in an attempt to help its side of the case and to hurt the other party’s side of the case. Redirect examination sometimes occurs; one party asks its witnesses questions to clarify earlier statements and presents its evidence in a new light to clear up any confusion or misunderstanding in an attempt to counter the other party’s arguments.

After all evidence, witness testimony, and examination, both parties make closing statements. With closing statements, both parties summarize their sides of the case.

If a trial involves a jury, the judge next instructs the jurors, telling them what laws, statutes, and jury instructions apply and offering them guidance on how to interpret the evidence and testimony. Then, after the jury has been instructed and has deliberated, the verdict is delivered. If a trial involves a jury, the verdict is rendered by the jury, which has considered and evaluated all the evidence and statements. However, if a trial does not involve a jury, the judge decides the case.

If you have more questions or concerns about trials, trial procedures, and the like, talk to a lawyer. To learn more, to have your questions answered, and to have your concerns addressed, contact Nashville Attorney Perry A. Craft.