What Happens in a Jury Trial, Part 2
(Continued, see Part I) After the defense rests their case, they may again request the judge for a judgment of acquittal, based now on the evidence that was presented by the defense, claiming “reasonable minds could differ” within the jury (the jury must be unanimous in Florida to decide either guilty or not guilty, and if a unanimous verdict is not possible, a mistrial will be declared by the Court). If granted, the case is dismissed and the jury is excused. If denied, closing arguments begin. Fort Lauderdale Criminal Attorney Mark Lowry is a former prosecutor and experienced criminal defense attorney who has tried over 60 criminal jury trials. Contact the firm for a free consultation to discuss your case and ask questions today.
The State gets to present its closing argument first, and last, to the jury, with the defense in between. At closing arguments, both sides will go over the evidence that was brought out during trial, and compare that to the law. Each crime charged has elements, like ingredients in a recipe. The State will attempt to match up the evidence at trial with each element to prove each element took place. For example, the elements for a Battery are (1) the intentional touching of another (2) against their will. The State would argue that the victim testified he was struck by the defendant’s fist and did not want to be, therefore proving both elements. The defense may argue that the evidence showed the victim voluntarily entered into the fight, and therefore was not touched against his will, causing reasonable doubt in the State’s case, and prompting a not guilty verdict.
After closing arguments, the Court will give the jury instructions on their duties in deliberating the case. These include a list of all crimes charged and every element each crime contains, and the instruction that they are the ultimate fact finders, the ones who determine which witness or statement to believe or disbelieve. Once they decide what facts actually occurred on the day(s) in question, they apply the law as instructed by the judge. Jury deliberations can take 10 seconds or weeks, and is often hard to predict. While deliberating, the jury may ask questions to the Court, like asking to see a photograph or statement again, or questions on the law. Once a verdict has been reached unanimously, the jury is brought back in the courtroom with all parties present to hear the reading. The jury can either find the defendant guilty as charged as to each crime, guilty to a lesser-included crime (like Assault is to Battery), or not guilty as to each crime charged. If guilty on any combination of crimes alleged, the Court may take the defendant directly into custody to await sentencing, sentence the defendant immediately, or release the defendant on bond pending sentencing. If the defendant has no prior criminal record he is entitled to a pre-sentence investigation, which will give the Court an overview of who the defendant is on a personal level, like upbringing, education, children to care for, etc. If the defendant has been adjudicated (convicted) for a crime in the past, the judge may sentence the defendant immediately.
If you or someone you love has been cited or arrested for anything, contact criminal attorney Mark Lowry immediately to help understand the criminal process and how to fight your charges. We offer affordable payment plans and 24 hour service 7 days a week.