A small percentage of criminal cases in Georgia go all the way to a bench or jury trial. The vast majority of criminal cases are actually dismissed or are resolved through guilty pleas and plea agreements. However, in some cases, the facts and circumstances lead defendants to conclude that taking their chances in front of a jury is the best option. So, what can you expect if you take your criminal case to trial?
Well, the first part of a jury trial is actually a step that might take the longest—jury selection. In this part of the process, a certain number of citizens from the area where the case is going to trial are called in and are subject to questions from both the prosecution and defense attorneys, as well as the judge in some instances. The goal is to find the right number of jurors who can hear and weigh the evidence fairly and impartially.
After the jury is selected, both sides get to present opening statements, and the case moves to the heart of the matter—the presentation of evidence. Witnesses will be called, physical evidence may be introduced and, in general, each side will try to present facts that support their side of the case. Of course, the burden is on the prosecution to prove the defendant’s guilt “beyond a reasonable doubt.” That burden is such that the defendant doesn’t even have to present evidence. The prosecution has to persuade the jury of the defendant’s guilt—the defendant doesn’t have to prove their innocence.
Once all evidence is presented, each side will get to make closing arguments. Then, the jury will deliberate and, in most cases, return a verdict.