I believe that the right to trial by a jury of your peers is the most important right that we have in this country. There are ethical prosecutors who carefully examine the evidence in their cases, and there are judges who are truly neutral in their decision making process, but there are also times when the only thing standing between a criminal defendant and a terrible injustice is the jury. In a system where the government has seemingly unlimited resources at their disposal with which to seek a conviction, the jury has the power to shut them down with two simple words.
The right to a jury trial also encompasses many other rights that are given to every citizen by our Constitution. If the government wants to convict a person of a crime, they must prove every element of the crime beyond any reasonable doubt, which is a higher standard than is used in any other type of case. You don't have to prove your innocence to the jury - the government always has the burden of proof. Although you do not have the burden of proof, you have the right to present your defense to the jury, to call witnesses on your behalf and to introduce your own evidence at trial. You do not have to say a word during your trial, but you have the absolute right to testify to the jury if you choose to. You can issue subpoenas to force witnesses to come to court, and to force them to bring evidence with them. You have the right to confront your witnesses during your trial, and subject them to a vigorous cross-examination.
At the beginning of your trial, the court will hear your pre-trial motions and rule on them. Sometimes your trial will stop right there, because some pre-trial motions result in your winning your case if they are granted. Your lawyer and the prosecutor will then choose the jury. The jurors are chosen at random, but you have the option of "striking" undesirable jurors from the selection process. The prosecutor and your defense attorney will give opening statements, telling the jury their theory of the case. Then the government will put on its case to the jury, calling witnesses and introducing their evidence. After they finish, your lawyer will present your case to the jury.
At the end of the trial, your defense attorney and the prosecutor make closing arguments to the jury and the judge will give the jury his instructions on the law that they are to follow. All 12 jurors must vote guilty for you to be convicted. All 12 must vote not guilty for you to be acquitted. If the jury cannot agree on a unanimous verdict, the judge will declare a mistrial at which point the prosecutor can re-try the case if they choose to.
Do not call our office and ask if I can represent you at your guilty plea, because I most likely will not accept your case. Although your case may end in a guilty plea, you and your lawyer must be prepared to take your case to trial in order to obtain the best outcome possible. If you have been charged with a crime and are willing to take your case to trial if necessary, call our Myrtle Beach office at 843-444-6122 or contact us online to discuss your options and to see how we can help.