If you are reading this, it is likely that you have questions or concerns about your trial. That's normal. Most people have never gone through any type of lawsuit before, so it is natural to be curious about jury trials. What is it like? Is it how you've imagined? Is it how it is portrayed on TV? What will happen on the day of trial? How much will it cost? A ton of questions are likely running marathons through your mind, right? In this article, I'll explain what you can expect when you go to trial. Hopefully, this will ease your mind...at least a bit.
What to Expect on the First Day of Your Jury Trial - Opening Statements
So it is day one of trial and the docket has been called. Parties have been sworn in and attorneys introduced. The first stage of the trial will be opening statements. An opening statement is like a mini-speech that your attorney will make to the jury that will explain the case, your position in the case, evidence that your attorney plans on presenting during the trial. Your attorney will also tell the jury what issues they are specifically going to be asked to decide. Which side goes first? Typically, the Petitioner (i.e. the person that filed suit first) will present first.
Now, even though opening statements are not evidence, it is vital that you have a lawyer that is fully capable of delivering an adequate opening statement in court. The opening statement is the introduction. It is the first time that the jury gets introduced to you, your attorney, the case, and even steals a glimpse at the evidence to come. First impressions matter as I am sure most people can agree, especially in jury trials. You should hire a lawyer that has great presence, is articulate, and can deliver an opening statement that will leave a memorable and positive impression on the jury and court. Choose a lawyer with a great personality and that is comfortable speaking in front of people, one that can relate to the jury and relay information in an easy-to-understand way. Choose someone that the jury will like.
Parties Present Their Evidence
So your attorney presented his or her opening statement, now what? After each side has given their opening statement, the parties will begin to put forward evidence for the jury to consider. The petitioner's attorney will start by calling witnesses and eliciting testimony from them. During the testimony, a well-trained lawyer will strategically get exhibits entered into evidence. Note : If an exhibit is not admitted as evidence, it cannot be considered by the jury/court. When your attorney has finished asking his or her witnesses questions, it is likely that the opposing counsel will then ask those same witnesses follow-up questions. Then, the witness is dismissed when testimony is complete and the other side calls their witnesses. The same procedure is completed for each side.
This is arguably the most important part of your entire trial. This is a key time in which your attorney can convince the jury to return a verdict that is favorable to you. This is the time that you'll have to testify regarding your spouse's affair or your ex's excessive drinking before picking up the children. During the presentation of evidence, videos may be played, emails read, reports analyzed, you name it.
Additionally, the judge may require the jury to leave the courtroom from time to time during the trial if he or she wants to speak with the attorneys and/or the attorneys need to make legal arguments. The jury will be asked to leave when the judge does not want to "taint" the case by what the jury hears. This is to further ensure that the jury's verdict is based upon only admitted evidence.
The Finale - Closing Arguments
After all of the evidence has been presented, it is time for the lawyers to make their closing arguments. Closing arguments are nearly identical to opening statements in concept. The closing statement is a way to sum up the case and why the jury should return a favorable verdict for the client. The jury will likely be reminded of the evidence presented during the trial and the reasons why they should deliver a verdict favorable to either party.
When closing arguments have been completed, it is time for the jury to really think about and discuss the case. The jury will be excused to a jury room to deliberate. Attorneys are not allowed in the room. After the jury makes a decision, they will deliver their verdict.