Trial — The Final Chance To Be Heard?

The trial before a jury or judge is the last chance to determine the guilt or innocence of the defendant. Most cases that go to trial are done before a jury. The jury will be composed of either six or 12 people chosen by random draw from a pool of jurors selected from lists of registered voters and licensed drivers. The defendant’s lawyer and the prosecutor will get to question the potential jurors to determine if they can be fair and impartial. A juror can be disqualified for cause, if they are biased or prejudiced, and cannot be fair to both parties. The lawyers can each get to exclude a certain number of jurors, for any reason or for no reason. These are called peremptory challenges.

Once the jurors are selected, the prosecution must present its evidence and prove the defendant guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. The proof must be beyond a reasonable doubt, and the jury must be unanimous in their verdict. If they are not unanimous, then a mistrial is declared, and the case is set to be tried before another jury.