Jury trials in Wisconsin

If you don’t settle your case through plea negotiations you have the right to a jury trial.

Jury trials are procedures in which the defendant and the government argue to a pool of individuals about whether the defendant committed a crime.  That pool of individuals is the jury.  Importantly, Wisconsin law requires that all 12 members of that jury in felony cases (sometimes 6 total jurors in a misdemeanor case) agree on a guilty or not guilty verdict.  What happens when they don’t agree?  Courts generally send an instruction back ordering the jurors to agree on a verdict.  After a certain amount of time, if that does not occur, sometimes courts order mistrials.  This does not result in a dismissal, and gives the government the opportunity to decide whether or not they would like to try the case again.

Jurors aren’t simply asked whether a crime occurred.  Instead, crimes break down into separate parts, called elements.  The government must prove each element of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt.  If the government does not satisfy that burden, the defendant cannot be found guilty of the crime.

A trial can be broken down into four main parts:

  • Voir Dire: Voir dire is translated as “To speak the truth.”  Selecting the jury is the first step of trial.  The purpose of jury selection is to ensure that no juror is biased and that they will give the defendant a fair trial.  Voir dire is an opportunity for your criminal defense attorney to give jurors a sneak peak into what the trial will be about.  Studies have shown that up to 80% of jurors make up their minds about guilt based on facts they get during questioning and what they hear during opening statements.  Jurors can be swayed at any point of trial, but the first parts of trial remain extremely important.
  • Opening Statement:  In the opening statement both sides speak to the jury about what they intend to prove at trial.  The opening statement provides an opportunity for your criminal defense attorney to point out the strengths in his case and the weaknesses in the State’s case.  It’s important that the defense attorney not embellish the facts, as a smart prosecutor will come back and point out the defense’s failures.
  • Presentation of Evidence:  Since the State has the burden of proving the defendant guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, it presents its case first.  The defendant then presents its case.  The prosecution is then given a chance to respond to the defense’s case by rebutting its evidence.
  • Closing:  After both sides have presented their evidence, attorneys from both sides make a final argument about the case.  This often involves each side discussing how the presentation of evidences bears on the elements of the crime.  It also involves pointing out the weaknesses in the other side’s case.  After the closing, the jury is tasked with determining whether the defendant is guilty or not.

Jury instructions and trial

At different points during trial, jury instructions are read to the jury.  Jury instructions are basic instructions to guide the jury through the process.  They includes instructions about evidence, instructions about objections, instructions about credibility, instructions about the elements of the crime, and many other topics.  There are hundreds of different jury instructions.  Whether each instruction is read in each trial depends on whether that instruction is relevant to the case.

The court puts down its gavel.
Jury trials are procedures in which a jury determines whether the defendant is guilty or not guilty. Judges remain present to determine various legal issues, including objections.

Hiring a criminal defense attorney for your trial is important

Frequently after a jury trial loss, prosecutors no longer abide by their pre-trial plea offers, and instead try to achieve inflated, near-maximum penalties for defendants.  This practice is dishonest and does not respect the principles espoused by the Constitution.  Unfortunately, judges frequently do nothing to remedy this practice, and instead join the government in this practice.  This all means that winning your jury trial is incredibly important.

At Van Severen Law Office, S.C., we’ve won cases for clients at jury trial.  We’ve also successfully negotiated optimal resolutions for clients before trial.  Either way, our criminal defense attorneys are in a great position to help you.

Contact Van Severen Law Office, S.C. if you’re seeking jury trial representation in your criminal case.  You can reach our firm 24/7 at (414) 270-0202.

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