Jury Trials

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Jury trials, if a case goes that far, comprise the bulk of the case. Most cases in the criminal court system are resolved through plea negotiations, but when that isn’t the case, the trial gives the attorneys for both sides the chance to present all of their evidence to the judge and jury in the attempt to either have the accused declared guilty or not guilty. The “burden of proof” lies with the prosecutor, which means that the state must prove the defendant’s guilt “beyond a reasonable doubt” in order to prevail. Because this is the defendant’s last chance to avoid a conviction, it is critical that he or she has a criminal attorney who specializes in defending California marijuana-related crimes and who knows the most effective strategies to prevail at trial.

A jury trial for any marijuana-related charge – or any criminal charge, regardless of whether it is a misdemeanor or a felony – consists of six phases that include jury selection (otherwise known as “voir dire”), opening statements, each side’s “case-in-chief,” closing arguments, jury instruction and jury deliberations.

Jury selection is just that – the phase where the attorneys get to choose their jury. Through a series of questions asked by the judge (and sometimes both attorneys), the attorneys choose who they believe will be the most sympathetic to their case. A savvy attorney will employ many strategies in selecting (or in asking the judge to excuse) his or her jurors so that he or she ultimately has an “ideal” jury. From a defense angle, jurors who are liberal, distrust the police and believe that marijuana should be legalized will typically be sought. This is also the phase where the attorney makes his or her first impression on the potential jurors.

Opening statements give each side an opportunity to “sum up” their versions of the events without arguing the case or actually presenting evidence. During this part of the jury trial, they are permitted to give the chosen jury a “road map” of where they expect the evidence to lead. The defense immediately follows the prosecutor, unless the attorney chooses (for strategic reasons) to wait until the conclusion of the government’s case-in-chief or to waive opening statements entirely.

Jury trials revolve around the case-in-chiefs of both sides. This is where each lawyer presents the witnesses and other evidence that helps to prove his or her theory of the case. In a marijuana-related trial, the prosecution would typically call on the arresting officer and anyone who witnessed the alleged offense to testify and, depending on the charge, may even hire an expert. Because the Constitution affords the accused the right to remain silent, the prosecution cannot compel him or her to testify. After witnesses testify, the defense has the chance to cross-examine them in an effort to reveal their dishonesty or to discredit their testimony. The defense case follows the government’s.Closing arguments give both sides a chance to re-tell their version of the events, based on the evidence that was ultimately admitted. The prosecutor goes first, explaining why he or she believes that accused is guilty and the defense presents a rebuttal argument showing why the prosecutor’s evidence was insufficient to warrant such a verdict. Because the prosecutor carries the “burden” he or she is allowed another chance to argue following the defense.

Jury instruction consists of the judge telling the jurors what laws they must follow when judging the defendant. Both attorneys decide which laws apply with the judge before the instructions are read.

Jury deliberations take place when the jurors decide if the accused is guilty or not. In a California criminal case, a guilty verdict must be unanimous, otherwise a “mistrial” is declared and the case is set for a retrial (unlikely in a misdemeanor case) or the case is dismissed.

The exceptional attorneys at The Kavinoky Law Firm thrive during trial and know what it takes to win! To learn more, contact them today for a free consultation.