Trial is the most high-profile phase of the criminal justice process, but the vast majority of cases never make it this far. Many defendants who make it to trial are unaware of what lies ahead. During this process, the jury will have a chance to hear arguments from both the defense and prosecution and decide on whether a defendant is guilty or innocent.
For your convenience, Law Office of Stephanie Selloni put together a brief outline of the criminal trial process. No defendant should ever go through a criminal trial without a defense attorney by their side. State prosecutors specialize in New York law and will see straight through a case with a flimsy defense.
Criminal Defense Attorney in Garden City
Do not settle for a court-appointed lawyer. You will need a criminal defense attorney with a proven record of defending clients in court. Stephanie Selloni has years of experience in criminal defense. She will poke holes in the prosecutor’s case and fight to protect your freedoms.
Schedule a time to speak with Ms. Selloni. Call (516) 972-1212. Law Office of Stephanie Selloni is based in Garden City but also defends clients in communities such as Huntington and Hicksville.
- Selecting a Jury
- Who Makes the Opening Statement?
- Witness Testimony and Cross-Examination
- The Verdict
- Additional Resources
Selecting a Jury
The first step in a criminal trial is the selection of a jury, a process known as voir dire. During this process, the judge, prosecutors and your defense attorney will question a pool of random New York citizens. Questions typically revolve around life experiences and ideological beliefs that may pertain to the case.
Both the defense and prosecution can exclude jurors through a “peremptory challenge” or “challenge for a cause.” A challenge for a cause can be used to excuse jurors who show they cannot be objective. Typical reasons include prejudice, bias and prior knowledge that prevent impartial evaluation of the evidence presented in court.
A peremptory challenge is used to exclude a juror for a non-discriminatory reason. For instance, assume a police officer was an assault victim. A defense attorney could exclude a juror after it’s learned they have numerous family members in law enforcement. The defense can excuse this juror without explanation, even if they claim to remain objective.
Once both parties have completed their challenges and all 12 or six jurors have been selected, the judge will swear the jurors in, and the next stage of the trial process will begin.
Who Makes the Opening Statement?
The first dialogue at trial comes from opening statements from the prosecution and the defense. The prosecutor will be speaking on behalf of the government, so their opening statement will be given first. Opening statements from prosecutors are often more detailed than the defense since they have the burden of proving a defendant is guilty.
The defense will give their statement on behalf of the defendant, but they may wait until the conclusion of the state’s main case before making their opening remarks.
Below is a brief explanation of what each statement may discuss:
- Defense: Most defense attorneys will explain how they plan to counter evidence from the prosecution, provide the jury with their interpretation of the facts and set the stage for the legal defense to the charges.
- Prosecutor: State prosecutors will present the jury with facts of the case from the governments perspective and explain what they are trying to prove. They will also explain what the defendant did and how the crime was committed.
Witness Testimony and Cross-Examination
Witness testimony and cross-examination are the bulk of any criminal trial. This portion of the hearing is often referred to as the “case-in-chief.” Prosecutors will typically start by presenting evidence in an attempt to convince the jury you committed the crime. At this point, the prosecution will call experts and eyewitnesses to support their evidence.
The defense will do the same, but sometimes they choose not to present a case-in-chief. Instead, they may decide to make their key-points by challenging the prosecutor’s evidence or by cross-examining their witnesses.
Witness testimony and cross-examination will typically adhere to the following guidelines, no matter the side:
- A witness will take the stand and swear an oath to tell the truth
- The party who called the witness will question them through direct examination to strengthen the party’s stance in the case
- The opposing party will then have the chance to cross-examine the witness to try and discredit their testimony
- The side that originally called the witness will then have a second chance to question the witness through re-direct examination and attempt to fix any damage caused by the cross-examination
Closing arguments will be made after each party has had their chance to present their case and challenge evidence. Similar to opening statements, a closing argument allows both the defense and the government the opportunity to recap their case in a manner that is favorable to their position. Closing arguments are crucial because it is the last time either attorney will have the chance to speak with the jury before deliberation.
The jury will be instructed by the judge on which legal standards should be applied to the case based on the criminal charges and the evidence presented in trial. Once they have received these instructions, the jurors will then deliberate and attempt to agree on whether a defendant is guilty or not. Every juror must agree on the verdict. If not, the judge will declare a mistrial.
The jury foreperson, which is the individual who speaks on behalf of the jury, will notify the judge of the verdict once they make a decision. A defendant will be acquitted if the jury finds them not guilty. They will be released from police custody and the record of the case will be sealed. If you are found guilty, though, your case will move to sentencing. Some cases are sentenced right after the verdict while a date for sentencing may be set for others.
Criminal Trial | New York State Unified Court System – Learn more about criminal trial by following the link. You can find out how many jurors are needed for felony and misdemeanor cases and gain access to information about sentencing and the collateral consequences of a criminal conviction.
The Criminal Court | New York Statutes – Follow the link provided to learn more about criminal courts in the Empire State. You can find out what the criminal courts are comprised of, the jurisdiction of local criminal courts and the jurisdiction of superior courts. The information can be read on NYPDCrime.com, a comprehensive online digest for New York state laws.
Criminal Defense Lawyer in Nassau County
Do not risk representing yourself in court as a way to cut cost. Even the most esteemed attorneys opt for legal representation when faced with the criminal justice system. Stephanie Selloni is a strong-willed criminal defense lawyer who will aggressively fight on your behalf.
No matter the criminal charge, Law Office of Stephanie Selloni is here to help. Call (516) 972-1212 to schedule a free case evaluation. Ms. Selloni proudly defends clients in Nassau County, Westchester County and Suffolk County.