Anatomy of a Trial

The law fascinates many citizens. This is shown in the popularity of television programs featuring the justice system as well as the vast extent of the news coverage during a high-profile trial. When you are the person taking the stand, these stories can take on a whole new meaning. Whether you are in court as the plaintiff or defendant, it is important to know will happen in the court before the jury is released to deliberate.

Opening Statements

Once the trial begins, the lawyers for each side will present their opening statements. The prosecutor goes first, outlining the points he or she intends to make during the case against the person on trial. Then the defense gets a chance to offer a different perspective to the jury and all present, reminding them that there is a presumption of innocence and asking the jury to look for reasonable doubt that the defendant committed the crime before the arguments begin in earnest.


After introducing the court to the points that will be made during the process, each side then gets to present its case in full. Once again, the prosecution goes first, as the attorneys on that side are tasked with the larger burden of proof. They use their time to present evidence that the defendant committed the crime with which he or she is charged. They may call a variety of witnesses, including the officers who filed the police report, eyewitnesses and character witnesses. If the crime involves technical factors that exceed the knowledge that can be reasonably expected from the average person, the prosecutor may use expert witness services to help interpret the evidence. Once the prosecution rests, the defense tries to prove that the defendant did not commit the crime. The defense lawyers go through a similar process of presenting evidence, but they don’t actually have to prove their client is innocent. All they must show is that someone else could have done it or that the prosecution did not present enough evidence to warrant a conviction.

Closing Arguments

Every good presentation has both an introduction and a conclusion. Each side presents its closing arguments, reminding the court what was presented during the trial. The attorneys then ask the jury to make the decision that supports their side. While all evidence is available to the jury during deliberation, this is the last chance the lawyers get to make arguments.

Not every trial is as flashy as it seems on television, but the outcomes are very important for the people involved. No matter which side you’re on, it helps to know what to expect when you enter the courtroom.