Legal Updates

The Importance of the Jury Trial

Criminal cases are like wars.  They are battles fought in courtrooms.  On one side stands the District Attorney.  They have the power of the police, investigators, and deep budgets.  On the other side stands the defendant.  The defendant is often represented by indigent counsel, or an attorney who has been paid a sum of money for the representation.  The defendant’s main advantage is the state must prove him guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.  This is a high standard.

In cases that are exceedingly difficult, it is often best to exercise your right to a jury trial.  When a jury trial is demanded it forces the District Attorney to marshall all of their resources.  The DA must dedicate up to a week or more to try the case.  Officers and witnesses must be subpoenaed.  Closing and opening statements must be prepared.  When compared with the relative informality of a Bench Trial (a trial tried before a judge), the Jury Trial adds pressure that may lead to better offers and more positive dispositions.

You also have the power to select your jury.  This process, known as jury voir dire, gives power to the defendant.  The defendant along with counsel is permitted to ask questions of prospective jurors.  Individuals then may be struck from the jury pool for cause, or in some situations for no cause whatsoever.  This added benefit gives the defendant more control over the outcome of their case.

Many criminal defense lawyers ignore jury trials for obvious reasons.  Jury trials are time consuming.  They slow lawyers down.  They can demand an entire week of the attorneys time.  For these obvious reasons, many great trial lawyers encourage their client’s to “waive” the right to a jury and go with a judge.  The waiver, however, may not be in the defendants absolute best interest.  If the evidence is strong, the case difficult, the better option may be to opt for a jury of ones’ peers.

To discuss your case with a qualified criminal defense lawyer, contact Mark D. Copoulos at 267-535-9776.