Trial (Jury or Bench/Judge)
A trial is an adversary proceeding in which the Prosecutor must present evidence to prove the defendant's guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. The defendant is not required to prove his or her innocence or to present any evidence, but may challenge the accuracy of the Prosecutor's evidence.
Both the defendant and the Prosecutor (representing the People of the State of Michigan) have the right to a trial by a jury. Sometimes, both sides agree to let a Judge listen to the evidence and decide the case without a jury; this is called a "bench trial". In a jury trial, the jury is the "trier of fact"; in a bench trial, the judge is. After the evidence is presented, the judge or a jury will determine whether the evidence proved that the defendant committed the crime.
Steps in a Jury Trial
Here is a general outline of the steps in a jury trial:
- Residents of the local county are randomly selected from a Secretary of State list of licensed drivers, and are summoned to the Court as potential jurors;
- A blind draw selects twelve people from that group in felonies (six in District Court misdemeanors);
- Voir Dire: the Judge, Prosecutor and defense attorney question the jurors about their backgrounds and beliefs;
- The attorneys are permitted a limited number of "peremptory" challenges to various jurors (or an unlimited number of challenges for good cause);
- After twelve (or six) acceptable jurors remain, the Judge administers an oath to the jury and reads basic instructions about the trial process, etc.;
- The Prosecutor gives an opening statement to outline the People's case and evidence to the jury;
- The defense may give a similar opening statement, or wait until later in the trial;
- The Prosecutor calls witnesses, which the defense may cross examine;
- The People close their proofs;
- The defense may call witnesses, if it wants, and the Prosecutor may cross-examine them;
- The defense rests;
- The Prosecutor may present "rebuttal" witnesses/evidence to challenge evidence presented by the defendant during his proofs;
- The Prosecutor rests;
- Occasionally, the trial judge will let the defense present "sur-rebuttal" witnesses to respond to the Prosecutor's rebuttal witnesses' testimony;
- The Prosecutor presents a closing summary to the jury;
- The defense attorney presents a closing summary to the jury;
- The Prosecutor may present a rebuttal argument to the jury to respond to the defendant's attorney's closing summary;
- The judge gives the jury detailed legal instructions about the charged crimes, the deliberation process, etc.;
- The jury deliberates and returns a verdict.
A criminal case jury verdict must be unanimous.