Be prepared for your criminal trial, or the criminal trial of your loved one. Discover what to expect from a trial in Texas, what to do, and what NOT to do. For more information, request a free copy of my consumer guide, What You Don’t Know Could Hurt You.
Welcome back to the next installment in our video series. Today we’re going to talk about what happens at trial. Most people’s knowledge about what happens in a criminal trial is based on what they’ve seen on TV. And TV is generally really entertaining and things happen generally pretty fast – within 30 minutes or an hour. You can probably guess that is not how real life works. Trials are not nearly as entertaining and parts of them are just outright boring.
First thing you need to think about when you’re talking about a trial is what you’re going to wear. The best advice is to dress like you’re going to church, or going to a wedding or going to a funeral. In other words, you want to dress well. The one thing you don’t want to do is to dress like you are going for a night on the town when you are done or you are going out to the beach.
The focus in a trial is on the jurors that are going to hear your case. They are the most important people in the world because they are going to be the people who are going to decide your fate if you are having a jury trial. You want them to like you so everything that you do including the way you dress you need to think about what impact and what impression that’s going to have on those people who are going to decide your case.
If you are having a jury trial, your case is going to start with jury selection. Jury selection generally involves a large panel that is brought in; here in McLennan County, they come in on Mondays. A judge is assigned to hear excuses why I can’t serve because I’ve got work, or I’ve got a flight or I’ve got a vacation. Once those excuses are heard and you get a jury panel, then those jurors are divided up and sent to different courts. One thing that people don’t understand about jury selection is that is really isn’t jury selection. You don’t get to choose the jurors you want. Instead, the process is one where you get what is called a peremptory strike - you get to remove the people that you don’t want. The number is different – it’s 10 in a felony case and it’s 3 in a misdemeanor case. But you get to decide the people that you don’t want and the state gets to do the same thing, then the jurors that are left are going to be the people that are going decide your case. The jury selection will start off with the trial judge generally asking some questions to see if people know anything about the case, he may ask some questions to see if they know any of the people involved, and he’ll generally ask some questions about the specific type of case and if anybody has any problems with the type of case. For instance a DWI case, they may ask questions about people who may have been involved in accidents with drunk drivers or any people with strong feelings about drinking and driving.
Once the judge is done, then the State has the opportunity to ask questions depending on the court you’re in they are going to spend 30 minutes to an hour or more talking to the jurors. This is the chance that both sides have to ask questions of the jurors and to get to know a little bit about them. What you’re trying to find out is whether that person is going to be a juror that you want or somebody you’re going to want to strike and you’re also trying to find out if it’s someone that has some attitude or some belief or some particular issue that’s going to make them an unsuitable juror which is somebody that the court may remove on their own or on motion fby either party which is called a challenge for cause.
Once the state goes, then you have a chance to, and your lawyer has a chance to talk to the jurors and that’s going to be the way the case is handled throughout. The order stays the same. The State goes first, and then the defense is allowed the opportunity to go and then in some cases, the state gets the opportunity to come back.