Our law firm’s goal in every case is to work to quickly reach the best outcome possible in your case. But as experienced trial attorneys, we are always preparing as if every case could go to trial. Lawyers without trial experience often go to court trying to make a deal with the prosecutor because they know trials are complicated and time-consuming. The attorneys in our law firm are prepared to fight your case until the end. By approaching cases with trial preparation in mind from the beginning, it ensures that we are gathering all evidence needed in your case and developing legal issues that will later put you in the best position to prevail if trial becomes necessary.
Trials begin with the process of jury selection, also known as voir dire. At the start of a trial, dozens of potential jurors are called to court – many more than the twelve people who would be on the jury for the trial. Through the process of jury selection, your attorney will ask carefully crafted questions of each of the potential jurors with the goal of selecting jurors who will be more favorable to your case. There are time limits to jury selection, and potential jurors are not always forthcoming about their beliefs, so it is important in jury selection that your attorney has experience and a plan when approaching this step of the trial. Ultimately, jury selection is picking the twelve members of the community who will vote on your guilt or innocence.
After jury selection, the prosecutor will give an opening statement. Your defense attorney gives an opening statement next. The opening statement is a summary of the evidence that both sides expect the jury will hear. It is not a full presentation of the case since no evidence has been presented yet, but it is the first chance that both sides have to talk about the facts of your case and persuasively present their cases.
Next, the State must go first with presenting its evidence. The prosecutor will ask its witnesses questions – this is called direct examination. Your attorney will cross-examine each of the State’s witnesses after the State finishes asking them questions. The cross-examination process is particularly important. Through cross-examination, your attorney can poke holes in the State’s witnesses’ testimony, identify inconsistencies in testimony, or even point out favorable evidence for you that the prosecutor may be trying to minimize. Effective cross-examination takes skill, experience, and preparation, since your attorney is using the State’s own witnesses against them to present helpful evidence for your case.
After the State concludes its case and your attorney cross-examined all of their witnesses, you have the opportunity to present your own evidence. This is not required, and you and your attorney may decide that the State has not met its burden of proof with the evidence it presented to that point. Or you and your attorney may decide that the jury needs to hear information that only you or your witnesses have. If the defense chooses to present evidence, then your attorney will ask the defense witnesses questions, and the State would have the opportunity to cross-examine the defense witnesses.
After the presentation of the evidence is concluded, both sides will make closing statements. With closing statements, both the State and defense make arguments to the jury about their side of the case. This is the last opportunity to persuade the jury before they begin deliberations, so it is important to effectively summarize the evidence and persuasively explain why the State failed to prove its case. A good closing argument also requires preparation and experience as well as fully knowing all aspects of the law and the case.
After the closing arguments are complete, the judge will give the jury final instructions and the jury will begin deliberating about the case. To be convicted of a crime in Tennessee, all twelve members of the jury must find you guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. If even one jury has doubts about your guilt, you cannot be convicted. The jury may deliberate for hours or even days before it renders a verdict. Once the verdict is received, it will be read in court and the judge will impose judgment in the case. If you are found not guilty, then the case is finished and the State cannot ever pursue those charges against you again.