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What happens in a jury trial after the prosecution finishes calling witnesses?

Posted by attorney Richard Jones

Trial order. After the state finishes their case it's the defendant's turn. Because the burden of proof is on the state the defense may not need to put on any evidence. If the defense attorney feels the state hasn't proven it's case, they will move for a directed verdict. Basically the attorney is asking to judge to find that the state didn't prove it's case. This is rarely successful. If the motion is not granted the defense may then make it's opening statement if they didn't make one at the beginning. Then the defense will call witnesses possibly including the defendant. If the defendant has no criminal history they are more likely to get called. The state cannot call the defendant or comment if the defendant does not take the stand. Once the defense has called their witnesses the state may call rebuttal witnesses. These are witnesses called to contradict specific evidence or testimony offered by the defendant. Next the judge will read the charge to the jury. The charge is the instructions the jury must follow. After the charge is read the state will make the first part of their closing arguments. Next the defense makes their closing argument. Finally, the state gets one last chance to argue before the jury. They get two chances because they have the burden of proof. Closing argument is a chance to summarize the evidence and highlight why one side feels they should win. It is much more wide ranging than opening statements. After closing statements the jury goes back to decide the case. A jury verdict in a criminal case must be unanimous.

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