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New York criminal trial process: a brief overview

Being charged with a crime can be a frightening experience. After all, many people in New York do not have experience with the judicial system before having to face a courtroom. All of this could make going through a criminal trial incredibly stressful, especially if the accused is not guilty of the charges against them. For these reasons, it is important to have a basic understanding of the criminal trial process.

In general, the first step in the criminal trial process is selecting a jury. A pool of potential jurors will be created and the judge, usually along with the prosecuting attorney and the defense attorney, will ask the potential jurors questions. Depending on the juror's answers, some will be dismissed, leaving a jury of one's peers. In New York, this generally means a jury of six individuals, although alternates may be chosen.

Once the trial has started, each side will make opening statements. Since the prosecution carries with it the burden of proof, they will make the first opening statement in favor of their argument. The defense will then make an opening statement in favor of their argument, although in some cases the defense will not make their opening statement until the prosecution has finished its main case.

After opening statements, witnesses and experts for both parties will be called. The witness will be sworn in, examined by the party that called them, and then cross-examined by the other party. In some cases, following cross-examination, the witness may be re-examined by the party that called them.

Next will be closing statements and jury instruction. In closing statements, each party will summarize their case. Since a person is still innocent until proven guilty, the prosecution still has the burden of proof, which the defense can claim they did not meet. The judge will then instruct the jury on the legal criterion they must consider when making their verdict. For example, the elements of the crime may be explained as part of the jury instruction.

Finally, the jury will decide on a verdict. Usually this means that the jury will deliberate, that is, discuss the case and come to a conclusion about the accused's guilt. The verdict will then be announced by the judge.

The criminal trial process may vary slightly from state-to-state. Nonetheless, knowing what one will face is just part of the battle of proving one's innocence.

Source: FindLaw.com, "Criminal Trial Overview," accessed on Aug. 19, 2014

Source: FindLaw.com, "Criminal Trial Overview," accessed on Aug. 19, 2014

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