Sugar Land Jury Trials Process
20+ Years of Legal Experience Guiding You Through Trial
At Stornello Law Firm, PC, we have been representing clients in Sugar Land for over 20 years. We have the professional knowledge and skill to navigate trial proceedings, and you can trust that we will do our best to guide you through the courtroom. Many legal cases involve a jury trial, so it will be important to know what a jury trial is and what the process looks like as you plan your next legal steps.
What Is a Jury Trial?
A jury trial, also called a trial by jury, is a legal proceeding where a jury makes a decision, as opposed to a bench trial where a judge or panel of judges makes the decisions. The Texas judicial system in particular can be confusing at first, but there are essentially six types of trial courts, all of which permit jury trials – district courts, constitutional county courts, statutory county courts at law, statutory probate courts, justice of the peace courts, and municipal courts. Jury trials held in district court usually consist of 12 jurors, and jury trials in county courts, probate courts, justice of the peace, and municipal courts consist of 6 jurors.
Two types of cases that involve a jury are criminal cases and civil cases. A criminal case results when a person is accused of committing a crime. By presenting evidence at trial, the state, represented by the district or county attorney, must prove that the defendant committed the charges "beyond a reasonable doubt." At this point, the members of the jury must consider all the evidence presented at the trial and ultimately determine whether the defendant is guilty or not guilty of the crime. Note that to return a valid verdict in criminal trials, jurors must reach a unanimous verdict.
A civil case results from a disagreement or dispute between 2 or more individuals or organizations involving disagreements about money or property, and usually no criminal violations are involved. In a civil case, the jury must answer questions (verdict) of disputed facts based on the testimony and evidence admitted by the judge. In civil trials, agreement of five-sixths of the jurors is sufficient to reach a valid verdict.
The Jury Trials Process in Texas
Civil and criminal cases begin with the opening statements delivered by the attorneys for the plaintiff and for the defendant. Each lawyer will explain the case, their client’s position, the evidence they will present during the trial to support their claims and defenses, and the issues the jury will be called upon to decide.
Following the opening statements, the lawyers will then present the evidence to the jury. The evidence generally consists of witness testimonies and the exhibits presented and admitted at the trial. These exhibits are also available to the jury for further examination during the jury deliberations. Depending on the situation, the judge will inform jurors whether they will be allowed to take notes during the trial.
Note that during the trial, the judge may need to address certain issues with the lawyers outside the presence of the jury. As a result, the judge may occasionally ask the jurors to leave the courtroom to allow the lawyers to make their legal arguments. These periodic interruptions are primarily to ensure that the jury's verdict is based upon proper evidence, as determined by the judge under the Rules of Evidence.
At the close of all the presentations of evidence, the judge will give the jury detailed instructions that identify the issues to be determined and the applicable laws in the case. The Charge of the Court will include a series of questions that the jury must answer after considering all the evidence admitted during the trial. Keep in mind that the judge determines issues of law, and the jury decides issues of fact and apply those facts to the law.
Afterwards, the lawyers will have the opportunity to make their final plea (closing statements) to the jury to explain why they believe their client should prevail. The lawyers may summarize the evidence and try to persuade the jury to accept their client's view of the case.
At the conclusion of the trial, following closing arguments and jury instructions, the jurors will leave the courtroom and go to a jury room to begin deliberations. After reviewing the evidence at trial, the jury must decide how to answer the questions that were submitted to them by the court and return a valid verdict. The verdict must be based solely on the evidence presented by the parties, the Charge of the Court, and the rules of law provided by the judge. During deliberations jurors may communicate with the judge concerning any matters that affect their deliberations, including any physical discomfort, special needs, or questions regarding the evidence or the Charge of the Court. A bailiff or an officer of the court will deliver notes to the judge on behalf of the jurors.
Questions? Contact Stornello Law Firm, PC.
If you any legal questions or concerns about the jury trials process in Sugar Land, Texas, do not hesitate to contact Stornello Law Firm, PC for more information. We have more than 20 years of courtroom experience and can provide you the knowledgeable guidance you need to navigate the jury trials process, whether you face criminal or civil suits.
“Mr. Stornello was kind enough to share legal insight and experience to assist me, a fellow attorney.”- Caroline O.
“I had two very serious cases I was on probation for and got them terminated early thanks to Mr. Stornello’s hard work.”- Joshua F.
“Because of you, I'm a free man again.”- Joseph O.