Journalist's Guide

prohibited reasons), depends on the seriousness of the case. In most serious cases the defense gets 10 strikes while the state gets five. For cases where the defendant could get 20 years or more, the defense gets 20 strikes and the state gets 10 preemptory challenges. In the less serious cases, both sides get four strikes.

The Trial Process The trial begins with opening statements from both sides.

The defense may wait until the beginning of its case but usually doesn’t. The state goes first since it has the burden to prove beyond a reasonable doubt all elements of the offenses with which the defendant is charged.

In the presentation of its case, the state must put on evidence either in the form of witnesses, documents, scientific tests or stipulations (agreements between the parties as to facts) which are sufficient on their face to satisfy each requirement of each specific crime charged. At the end of the state’s case, if sufficient evidence is not put on, the judge should grant the defense motion not to proceed further ( Motion for Judgment of Acquittal ) at least as to that particular charge. Similarly, at the close of trial, charges for which there is insufficient proof beyond a reasonable doubt are not to be submitted to the jury. Frequently during trial, the lawyers approach the bench to argue evidentiary objections out of the presence of the jury. The jury shouldn’t hear discussion of arguably prejudicial or irrelevant witness statements. These delays, however, are tedious for jurors and spectators. Making proper objections is critical. Appellate courts do not retry cases. They only review the record for alleged errors of the trial court in admitting or excluding evidence, instructing the jury and similar errors of law. The record must clearly reflect the alleged error and the party’s objection to it. The lawyers have to be careful in preserving these errors for review by making timely objections for the record. Movies and television programs often distort direct and cross-examination. The television lawyers often assume many facts not in evidence, use argumentative questions and elicit bombshell responses within one or two questions. The real world is different. Pretty mundane material often has to be brought out on direct examination. For example, time-consuming foundations for the admissibility of documentary and other tangible evidence must be laid before the evidence can be admitted. While there is less strictness in the form of questions than once existed, there are still requirements that direct examination questions be essentially non-leading (not suggesting the answer) and far more focused than the typical television movie argument- speech-question.

The general rule is judges, for the most part, should leave the tough questioning to the lawyers. Most judges do not jump into the fray and only sparingly ask some housekeeping questions of


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