The American legal system exists for the purpose of enforcing the laws created by the legislature. The trial process does not exist only because common law and American law deems it necessary. The processes that are involved are necessary for the enforcing the law. Each of the parts are defined and performed ritually for every case. Aside from just being an elaborate ritual, the process is also an exercise in protecting the substantive portion of law. Each part works to ensure that law is enforced by trial, that guilt is determined and that, if found guilty, appropriate punishment is served. To observe the trial process, it is necessary to delve into the pretrial, trial and post-trial procedures. For all intents and purposes, this look into the trial process will focus on criminal trial cases.
In criminal cases, the pretrial can be where it is determined whether or not the case will even go to trial. The first thing that happens is the formal pressing of charges. It is up to the prosecutor's discretion to press the charges that are originally filed by the complainant or the police. In a preliminary hearing, a judge decides whether or not the prosecutor's case is strong enough to go to trial. In some hearings, the judge is required to approve the case to go to a grand jury who then agrees to the indictment of the accused (Scheb & Scheb, 2002, p. 330).
[...] While the jury is sitting in the jury box, they must discern what they believe of the witnesses' testimony, if anything and whether or not they will be able to rely on this testimony to support charges against the accused. After the prosecutor directly examines the witness, the defense has the right of cross-examination. It is a right that both parties are given to exercise after the other's direct. In the process of cross examination, the defense is able to ask leading questions that would not be allowed on direct. [...]
[...] The purpose of opening statements is to introduce the jury to the case and outline how the trial will go (Scheb & Scheb p. 296). The parties lay out themes that will be referred to again and again during the trial (Lisnek 188). This part of the trial is imperative because it is the first impression of the case that the jurors get. It is at this point where many jurors begin to pick sides and listen for evidence that supports their side (Lisnek 175). [...]
[...] Having gone through the trial process, the question remains: is our trial system fair and impartial? One can argue that the trial system can never be impartial given that impartiality requires a completely unbiased and unprejudiced approach to the trial. In a perfect world, all cases will be approached from a 100% objective and logical point of view. However, as human beings, it is nearly impossible to not draw our own experiences into the decisions that are made in the courtroom by lawyers, judges, and most importantly the jury. [...]
[...] It is a last effort to solidify a tightly constructed case so that the jury will be able to reach a final verdict. Following the closing arguments, the jury is instructed to “consider all of the evidence presented in the case and also remember that the burden of proof rests solely on the prosecution” (Lisnek p. 94). The jury then deliberates and returns with a verdict. The process does not end with the verdict: the post-trial process begins here. If the accused is found not guilty, they are free to go. [...]
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