Stages of a Criminal Trial

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Stages of A Criminal Trail
Nancy Jane
Strayer University

One stages of a criminal trial is the presentation of evidence, first the state is given the opportunity to present evidence intended to improve the defendant’s guilt. After prosecutors have rested their case, the defense is afforded the opportunity to provide evidence favorable to the defendant.

Types of Evidence Evidence can be either direct or circumstantial. Direct evidence believed, proves a fact without requiring the judge or jury to draw inferences. For example, direct evidence may consist of the information contained in a photograph or a videotape. It might also consist of testimonial evidence provided by a witness on the stand. A straight forward statement by a witness (“I saw him do it!”) is a form of direct evidence.

Circumstantial evidence is indirect. It requires the judge or jury to make inferences and to draw conclusions. At a murder trial, for example, a person who heard gunshots and moments later saw someone run by with a smoking gun in hand might testify to those facts. Even without an eyewitness to the actual homicide, the jury might conclude that the person seen with the gun was the one who pulled the trigger and committed the crime. Circumstantial evidence is sufficient to produce a conviction in a criminal trial. In fact, some prosecuting attorneys prefer to work entirely with circumstantial evidence, weaving a tapestry of the criminal act into their arguments to the jury.

Real evidence, which may be either direct or circumstantial, consists of physical material or traces of physical activity. Weapons, tire tracks, ransom notes, and ransom notes, and fingerprints all fall into the category of real evidence. Real evidence, sometimes called physical evidence, is introduced in the trial by means of exhibits. Exhibits are objects or displays that, after having been formally accepted as evidence by the judge, may be shown to members of the jury. Documentary evidence, one type of real evidence, includes written evidence like business records, journals, written confessions, and letters. Documentary evidence can extend beyond paper and link to include stored computer data and video and recordings.

The Evaluation OF Evidence one of the most significant decisions a trial court judge makes is which evidence can be presented to the jury. To make this determination, judges examine the relevance of the evidence to the case at hand. Relevant evidence has a bearing on the facts at issue. For example, decades ago, it was not unusual for a woman’s sexual history to be brought out in rape trials. Under “rape shields statutes,” most states today will not allow this practice, recognizing that these details have no bearing on the case. Rape shield statutes have been strengthened that these details have no bearing on the case. Rape shield statutes have been strengthened by recent U. S. Supreme Court decisions, including the 1991 case of Michigan v. Lucas.65

Colorado’s rape shield law played a prominent role in the 2004 case of Kobe Bryant, a basketball superstar who was accused of sexually assaulting a 19- year-old Vail- area resort employee. Bryant admitted to having a sexual encounter with the woman but claimed it was consensual. Defense attorneys sought to have the Colorado law declared unconstitutional in an effort to show that injuries to the woman were the result of her having had sexual intercourse with multiple partners before and after her encounter with Bryant. The woman later dropped the criminal case against Bryant and settled a civil suit against him in 2005. The terms of the suit were not disclosed.

In evaluating evidence, judges must also weigh the probative value of an item of evidence against its potential inflammatory or prejudicial qualities. Evidence has probative value when it is useful and relevant, but even useful evidence may unduly bias...
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