December 7, 2023 | Criminal Law
Many criminal cases are resolved without going to trial. Usually, an experienced Indianapolis criminal defense lawyer can work to have the criminal charges dropped or negotiate a fair plea deal. However, taking some cases to a criminal trial in Indianapolis is necessary to protect the person’s rights and fight for an acquittal.
Understanding the Steps in a Criminal Trial in Indianapolis, IN
Each criminal trial is unique. However, the general steps in a criminal trial are more or less the same. The steps in a criminal trial include:
Choosing a Jury
The first step in a criminal trial is to select a jury. Requirements for jurors are:
- Be a citizen of the United States
- Be at least 18 years old
- Not have lost the right to vote and not be reinstated because of a felony conviction
- Be a resident of the county in which the jury trial is held
- Not a law enforcement officer
- Be able to communicate in English
- Not under a guardianship for mental incapacity
- Be free from a physical or mental disability that would prevent the juror from performing their duties
A defendant has the right to be tried by a jury of their peers. The jury pool consists of people from the county where the trial is being held. The pool should be composed of a cross-section of the community so that it does not exclude anyone based on race, religion, or gender.
The defense attorney and the prosecution can ask the jurors questions to determine if a person is biased. This process is called voir dire. Either side can challenge a juror and ask the court to excuse the juror for cause because they believe the juror has some bias that would impact their ability to remain fair and impartial.
After a jury is selected, the attorneys make opening statements. The attorneys explain the case and how they intend to prove their allegations. For example, the prosecutor explains why the defendant is guilty, and the defense attorney explains why the defendant could not have committed the crime.
Presentation of Witness Testimony and Cross-Examination
The prosecution goes first in a criminal trial in Indianapolis. They call witnesses for testimony. The defense attorney cross-examines the witnesses.
Then, the defense calls witnesses, and the prosecution cross-examines the defense witnesses. The parties are not required to cross-examine any witness.
Witnesses in a criminal trial could include the defendant, eyewitnesses, the arresting police officer, expert witnesses, and others. In addition to testifying about their knowledge of various aspects of the case, witnesses are used to introduce physical evidence. For example, a police officer may testify that the gun in evidence is the one found in the defendant’s home.
After both sides present all testimony and evidence, the attorneys issue closing arguments. Closing arguments summarize what the party has presented during the trial. It also allows the attorneys to convince the jurors that the evidence proves their version of the facts.
Jurors are the triers of fact. They decide what evidence to believe and whether that evidence proves or disproves the defendant’s guilt.
Before the jurors retire to deliberate, the judge instructs the jury about the law and their duties regarding deliberation. These instructions are intended to keep the jury on track during their deliberations and explain the substance of the applicable criminal code.
Attorneys may propose jury instructions with specific phrasing that is advantageous to their arguments. An attorney may oppose specific jury instructions as incorrect, irrelevant, or misleading. However, the judge makes the final decision regarding jury instructions.
Jury Deliberation, Announcement of Verdict, and Appeals
Jury deliberation is confidential. No one knows what the jurors discuss in the jury room. Jury deliberation could take a few hours or days. The jurors may send questions to the judge to clarify the law or ask to hear specific evidence again.
In an Indiana criminal case, the jury verdict must be unanimous. If a person is charged with murder, a Class A, B, or C felony, or a Level 1, 2, 3, 4, or 5 felony, there must be 12 people on the jury. The jury consists of six people for misdemeanors and other charges.
When the jury agrees upon a verdict, the verdict is announced in court. The foreperson signs the verdict form, and it is presented to the judge when the jury returns to the courtroom. The judge reads the verdict for the record.
If the defendant is guilty, they may file an appeal seeking to overturn the conviction. There are several grounds for appealing a jury verdict.
During the trial, the defense attorney may object numerous times. The objections can preserve the grounds for appealing the verdict. If the defendant is ultimately convicted and all appeals are exhausted, sentencing will generally take place to conclude the case.
Get Legal Help From an Experienced Indianapolis Criminal Defense Lawyer
If you are charged with a crime in Indianapolis, the best way to protect your rights is to consult an Indianapolis criminal defense attorney. It is crucial that you understand your rights and legal options to make an informed decision whether to plead guilty or fight the criminal charges at trial.
Contact the Indianapolis Criminal Defense Attorneys at Suhre & Associates, LLC For Help Today
Suhre & Associates, LLC – Indianapolis
101 W Ohio St #2000
Indianapolis, In 46204