Login

Elements & Purpose of the Criminal Trial

An error occurred trying to load this video.

Try refreshing the page, or contact customer support.

Coming up next: Constitutional Requirements of a Criminal Trial

You're on a roll. Keep up the good work!

Take Quiz Watch Next Lesson
 Replay
Your next lesson will play in 10 seconds
  • 0:17 Criminal Trials
  • 0:55 Elements
  • 3:25 Lesson Summary
Add to Add to Add to

Want to watch this again later?

Log in or sign up to add this lesson to a Custom Course.

Login or Sign up

Timeline
Autoplay
Autoplay
Create an account to start this course today
Try it free for 5 days!
Create An Account

Recommended Lessons and Courses for You

Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Jennifer Williams

Jennifer has taught various courses in U.S. Government, Criminal Law, Business, Public Administration and Ethics and has an MPA and a JD.

In this lesson, we will learn about criminal trials. We will look at what the purpose of the criminal trial is and the elements that make up the trial process from the beginning to the end.

Background

When an individual breaks the law in the United States, he is entitled to a trial as one of his constitutional rights. During this lesson, we will learn about the purpose of the criminal trial and what different elements make up the criminal trial.

Criminal Trials

The criminal trial is when two parties, a prosecutor representing the government and a defense attorney representing the accused, meet in court before a judge or jury in order to present evidence to support their case. The purpose of criminal trials in the United States is to ensure that an individual accused of a crime receives a fair and impartial evaluation of the situation in order to determine if he is guilty or not. In furthering this goal, there are several elements that make up the criminal trial to protect the defendant's rights along the way.

Elements

The first element of the trial process is called voir dire. This is the process of jury selection. During this process, the attorneys for both sides ask the potential jurors different questions regarding the case in order to find out if there is something that would make it inappropriate for them to sit as a juror on that particular case. Once these questions are asked, each party gets a part in selecting and releasing some jurors.

The next element of the trial process is called opening statements. These are the statements that are given by each party, in turn, at the beginning of a trial. These statements are not considered formal evidence; they are merely each attorney's view of what the evidence will show.

The third element of the trial process is called witness testimony. This testimony is a witness's account of the incident at issue given while under oath. Before a witness testifies, he or she takes an oath to tell the truth. Then, the prosecutor has a chance to ask the witness questions, also known as direct examination. Then, the defense has a chance to ask the witness questions under cross examination.

The fourth element of the trial process is closing arguments. These are statements given by each side explaining what the evidence showed and how it relates to the crime that the defendant has been charged with. Like opening statements, closing arguments are not considered evidence. During closing arguments, the prosecution and defense will make a summary of their case against the other side and what they feel the evidence showed.

The fifth element of the trial process is jury deliberation. This is the period during which the jury discusses its potential verdict in seclusion. To begin, the jury selects a foreperson that will be in charge of keeping the jury on task during deliberations. When the jury has reached a verdict, then it is the foreperson that contacts the court and hands the verdict over to the court. The amount of votes necessary for a guilty verdict varies from state to state, but most states require a unanimous verdict in order to convict a defendant.

Once the court is notified that a verdict has been reached, the verdict is read in open court and the trial is completed.

To unlock this lesson you must be a Study.com Member.
Create your account

Register for a free trial

Are you a student or a teacher?
I am a teacher

Unlock Your Education

See for yourself why 30 million people use Study.com

Become a Study.com member and start learning now.
Become a Member  Back

Earning College Credit

Did you know… We have over 95 college courses that prepare you to earn credit by exam that is accepted by over 2,000 colleges and universities. You can test out of the first two years of college and save thousands off your degree. Anyone can earn credit-by-exam regardless of age or education level.

To learn more, visit our Earning Credit Page

Transferring credit to the school of your choice

Not sure what college you want to attend yet? Study.com has thousands of articles about every imaginable degree, area of study and career path that can help you find the school that's right for you.

Create an account to start this course today
Try it free for 5 days!
Create An Account
Support