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Federal defendants must prepare fully for trial

Preparing for a criminal justice trial isn't something that can be done quickly. It takes time to get ready for this ordeal with significant ramifications if not done properly. Going through a trial is a multistep process that you should make sure you understand before you embark upon it.

Each step has special considerations that must be factored into your defense strategy. The majority of your efforts might be placed on the actual trial itself, but don't neglect the other components of your defense.

Choosing the jury

When you choose to have your case handled during a trial, the first thing you will do is go through jury selection. This is known as voir dire. The jury members should represent an accurate cross-section of the community, so it can't overly favor a specific race, gender or other identifying component.

Either side of the case can dismiss jurors for a variety of reasons, but there are limitations. If the case involves the death penalty, there is a special phase of the jury selection during which any jurors who don't support capital punishment are released.

The trial

During the trial, each side makes an opening statement. The prosecution goes first and the defense can choose whether it will go directly after the prosecutor or wait until just before the defense's case is presented. The prosecutor presents that side of the case, including showing evidence and calling witnesses. The defense can cross examine all witnesses. Once the prosecutor is finished, the defense's side of the matter is presented and the prosecution can cross examine witnesses.

When all the evidence is presented and witnesses have been called, it is time for closing statements. These sum up the case of both sides. The jury will then receive instructions from the judge about the deliberations. After the instructions, the jury goes to a room by itself to discuss the matter and come to a decision about the case. Once the jury makes a decision, the members return to court to announce that verdict.

Sentencing phase

The sentencing phase doesn't start right away after the jury's verdict is read. Instead, there is a pre-sentencing investigation and related steps, including a victim impact statement, that occur between the reading of the jury's verdict and imposition of the sentence.

Throughout the trial in California, the defendant has a right to be present. Exercising this right is a personal decision that must be made based on the plan you and your lawyer develop.

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