Opening Statements – When the juror is selected and sworn, the lawyers on each side of the case may make brief statements to the jury outlining what they intend to prove on behalf of their clients.
Presentation of Evidence – The next step in the trial is the presentation of the evidence in the form of testimony and exhibits. Testimony consists of statements made by witnesses under oath. Exhibits are physical objects, such as photographs, weapons, or written documents.
Rules of evidence have been developed over the years to insure that trials are fair and orderly and the judge acts as a gatekeeper for the evidence that comes into court. Insofar as the jury is concerned, the evidence is only that which the judge permits the jury to consider.
Examination of Witnesses – To prove a certain side of the case, lawyers may call witnesses to the stand for examination. Lawyers ask questions of the witnesses to bring out specific facts they wish to show. The questions asked should have some bearing on the case, and the witnesses should know about the subject matter being discussed.
When the direct examination of a witness is finished, the lawyer for the other side may cross examine, which means that he or she may ask questions of the same witness.
Conference and Delays During Trial – There are occasions during a trial when the lawyers may confer with the judge out of the hearing of the jury, or the judge may excuse the jury from the courtroom while the attorneys argue a point of law. Service as a juror may sometimes require patience.
Closing Arguments or Summations – After all the evidence has been presented, the lawyers for each side will make closing arguments to the jury, giving the reasons why they believe their side should prevail. If the testimony of witnesses is conflicting, the lawyers will tell the jury why the witnesses on their side are more persuasive than those on the other side.
Instructions – After the closing arguments are made, the judge will give instructions to the jury on which questions it is to decide and what specific law applies to that particular case. The kind and amount of proof required will be pointed out. The juror should listen to these instructions very carefully. If, in considering the case in the jury room, there is any disagreement as to what the judge instructed, or its meaning, the jury may ask for further instructions. Such a request should be made in writing and given to the court bailiff who will pass the request on to the judge.
Jury Deliberations – After the judge has delivered the instructions, the jury will go to the jury room to review the evidence according to the judge’s instructions and reach a verdict. The verdict is the final decision of the jury; it resolves the case.
The Verdict – When a verdict has been reached, the jury will return to the courtroom. The verdict will be read in open court by the clerk and accepted by the judge. Sometimes once of the parties will ask that the jury be polled. This means the clerk will ask each juror individually in open court if the verdict is his or her own verdict. After the verdict is delivered, the jury’s service will be complete, and the jury will be discharged by the judge.