Understanding The Steps Involved In An Oklahoma Jury Trial

Most criminal cases are resolved before they ever reach the trial stage. But, in some situations, going to trial is necessary and the better option.

If your case proceeds to trial, it is the prosecutor (acting on behalf of the state) who has the burden to present evidence to prove your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. The trier of fact (either the judge or jury) hears the evidence and decides whether the prosecutor has met the burden.

Here are the basic steps involved in a trial when the trier of fact is a jury:

Six Steps Involved In An Oklahoma Criminal Jury Trial

♦ Step 1: Jury Selection

The Oklahoma Constitution guarantees the right to have a jury composed of the residents of the county where the crime was committed. These jurors are randomly selected from a list of licensed drivers, and are summoned to the court for jury duty. Twelve citizens compose the jury for felonies and six for misdemeanors.

During what's known as voir dire, jurors are questioned by both the prosecutor and defense attorney. Each side is permitted to dismiss a juror for good cause. The process continues until the appropriate number of jurors remains.

♦ Step 2: The Prosecutor's Opening Statement At Trial

Once the jury is selected, the trial commences. First, the prosecutor gives an opening statement, giving a brief outline of the state's case and evidence to be presented. (The defense may give a similar opening statement when the prosecution is finished, but often waits until later in the trial.)

♦ Step 3: The Prosecutors Begins Its Case By Calling Witnesses

After the prosecutor's opening statement, the prosecution begins to try its case by calling witnesses. When the prosecution is finished asking the witness questions, the defense may "cross-examine" or question the state's witnesses as well.

This process continues until all of the state's witnesses have been examined. After these witnesses are finished, the state is finished and "rests its case."

♦ Step 4: The Defense's Turn To Call Witnesses

Next, it's the defense attorneys turn to call its witnesses to present its case. Similar to the prosecution's case, the defense may call its witnesses for direct examination and the prosecutor may cross-examine them. After all of the defense's witnesses have been examined, the defense "rests its case."

The prosecutor may then present rebuttal witnesses or evidence to challenge the evidence presented by the defendant.

♦ Step 5: Closing Arguments By Each Side

Once all rebuttal witnesses are finished, closing arguments begin. The prosecution presents its closing arguments to the jury first, then the defendant. The prosecutor, however, may present a rebuttal argument to the jury to respond to the defense's closing arguments.

♦ Step 6: Jury Deliberations

After the closing arguments are done, the judge gives the jury detailed legal instructions about the charged crimes and the deliberation process. After these instructions, the jury deliberates in private. Once the jurors' decision is unanimous, they return with a verdict of guilty or not guilty.

The Need For A Skillful Trial Attorney For Anyone Facing Serious Criminal Charges

The expertise required to handle a criminal trial cannot be learned overnight. Every step of the trial process leaves open the possibility for error — which could drastically affect your future.

Hiring an attorney who can spot these errors and work with opposing counsel effectively cannot be stressed enough.

Extensive Jury Trial Experience

At Stinnett Law, our legal team has handled numerous jury trials. With over 30 years of combined legal experience, our criminal defense lawyers are confident we can defend you.

Call our office today at 918-347-5041 to learn more about your charges and what we can do to help you.