DUI Jury Trials
Jury trials for all felony cases in Georgia are conducted with twelve jurors. Alternate juror may be selected in case of ill ness of juror removal. As most clients are unfamiliar with the trial procedures, the following is provided. These trials consist of several parts:
Presentation and swearing of the panel of petit jurors
Voir Dire or an inquiry by both the prosecution and defense lawyers into the attitudes, biases and prejudices of the jurors, commonly thought of as “jury selection” which actually occurs after “voir dire”, a French term, meaning “to speak the truth”. Each side will then get an equal number of “strikes” as each side tries to eliminate undesirable jurors from the panel to try the case.
Opening Statement This is always begun by the prosecution and followed by the defense. Each side then tells the jury what each side thinks the evidence will show. The defense may elect to conduct the Opening Statement after the evidence presented by the state has been heard.
State presents its Case.
State prosecution witnesses take the stand are sworn to an oath and testify to the questions asked by the prosecutor. This is followed by cross-examination by the defense. The State may redirect questions to the witness who may then be re-cross examined by the defense as the judge allows. During this time, many objections from either side may occur and be ruled upon by judge.
Defense presents its Case.
Defense witnesses take the stand are sworn to an oath and testify to the direct questions asked by the Defense attorney. This is followed by cross-examination by the prosecutor. Expert witnesses may be called to explain to the jury complicated scientific issues which apply in most felony cases. The Defense attorney may redirect questions to the witness who may then be re-cross examined by the prosecutor, also as the judge allows. Again, during this time, many objections from either side may occur and be ruled upon by judge.
At the end of this questioning, is about this time that the evidence will be “Closed” by the judge. The case now moves to closing argument where both sides will be allowed a closing statement. The State gets two opportunities; the defense gets one and never gets the last word, which is reserved by current law the state.
The state has two opportunities to have closing argument. They may “split” the closing argument, so that the state has the last word heard by the jury. Usually one-half hour are allowed for this phase by each party.
Jury Charges Read
The judge reads a long and complicated set of “charges”, being sets of rules of law and interpretations of laws by earlier courts, so as to inform the
jury about how they should proceed with the deliberations before them. Each side will have already prepared many documents from cases involving
similar facts for the court to consider. There will be a conference, which the defendant will participate in as these charges are accepted or rejected by the court.
The jury is the sent to the room where they are to remain during the deliberations. They will select a foreperson and decide upon a verdict. This verdict will be read in court. At this time the jury is usually released as their duty has been completed. If the verdict is “Not Guilty”, the defendant will be released. If a verdict of “Guilty” to any or all of the charges then the case will move to sentencing immediately or at another time. Usually, it is immediate.
Sentencing, if found Guilty
At sentencing, the facts are known to the judge. The verdict is of the jury is known to the judge. If the defendant is found guilty, the presumption of innocence which was held by the defendant during the trial is no longer present. The state will present any matters in aggravation and perhaps make a recommendation of a sentence. The judge will then hear from the defense in a similar way and matters in extenuation and mitigation may be presented in an effort to keep the sentence imposed upon the defendant less severe. Then sentence will be passed. The trial is then concluded. A jury trial can easily take one to two days to complete. Some complex cases take weeks to try.