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Sequence of Trial Events 


  1. The opening statements are made at the beginning of the trial and outline the facts expected to be presented to the jury. Opening statements are not evidence but are only explanations of what each side expects the evidence to prove.

  2. After the opening statements from both sides, the plaintiff's or state's case is presented in the form of evidence.
    This presentation is intended to prove the claims made. Evidence can be testimony given by a witness at trial or a physical exhibit such as a gun or photograph. The presentation of the case begins with the plaintiff's or the district attorney's direct examination of a witness. Direct examination discloses points important to the case. Next, the defendant's attorney may cross-examine the witness to disclose facts favoring the defendant; the defendant's attorney may demonstrate there is a reason to doubt the testimony given by the witness on direct examination. Upon completion of cross-examination, the plaintiff's attorney or district attorney may, on redirect examination, clarify statements previously made by the witness.


  3. The defendant's case is presented after the plaintiff's or state's case. The defendant's case presentation follows the same format as the plaintiff's or state's case.

  4. After the defendant's case, the plaintiff or state may present rebuttal witnesses or evidence designed to disprove the testimony and evidence presented by the defendant.

  5. Closing arguments follow evidence presentation, at which both sides summarize the case from their viewpoint. Closing arguments are not evidence but are the attorney's summaries of the evidence presented during the trial.

  6. The judge's charge to the jury follows closing arguments. The charge instructs the jury on the issues to be decided and the rules of law that apply to the case.

  7. After listening to the judge's oral charge, the jury retires to begin jury deliberations. Selection of a foreman is the jury's first duty. This person presides over the discussion of the case, acting as chairman and spokesman for the jury.

  8. Jury deliberations generally conclude when a unanimous verdict has been reached. If the jury is unable to agree upon a verdict after lengthy deliberations, the foreman must notify the judge. If the jury cannot reach a verdict, referred to as "deadlock," a mistrial must be declared and a new jury impaneled to try the case over.


    After reaching a verdict, the foreman records the verdict and calls for the bailiff to escort the jury to the courtroom. The verdict is read by the judge, circuit clerk, or foreman.