Anatomy of Trial

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Voir Dire

The judge and both lawyers question potential jurors and "strike" (eliminate) those who do not appear impartial. The final panel is composed of 12 people.

Opening Statements

Both lawyers have an opportunity to tell their version of the facts to the jury. The prosecutor always goes first.

State's Case

Prosecution presents its case with its witnesses.

Direct Examination

Witnesses are questioned by the prosecutor to establish "what happened."

Cross Examination

Witnesses are questioned by the defense lawyer in an attempt to explain, clarify or discredit what they have previously said.

Defense Case

Defense witnesses and defendant may testify or the defense lawyer may choose not to put any witnesses on the stand. Defense attorney will directly examine these witnesses, and the prosecutor will cross-examine them.


Prosecution witnesses may testify to dispute what the defense witnesses have said. This testimony must be something that has not previously been testified to in the State's case. Witnesses are directly examined by prosecutor and cross-examined by defense attorney.

Closing Arguments

Both lawyers summarize and argue their cases to the jury. The prosecutor is allowed to close first, then speak again after the defense attorney's closing argument.

Jury Instructions

The judge explains the law to the jury and how it applies to the case.


The jury goes to the jury room to discuss the case and decide a verdict. All 12 must vote either guilty or not guilty. If a unanimous decision cannot be reached, the jury declares a mistrial because of a "hung jury," and the case may be retried before a new jury.

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