The stages of a jury trial, after pre-trial motions, include:
A defendant may enter a formal written request for arraignment; otherwise, the court will enter a plea of not-guilty for the defendant.
Both parties, as well as the court, should confirm that the court has proper
jurisdiction over the matter at issue. Specific attention should paid to the charging document, including any potential fatal defects.
᷿ Counsel and Competency Issues
At this stage, if there are any lingering competency issues regarding the
defendant’s ability to stand trial, they should be addressed and clarified. Furthermore, it is wise to affirm the defendant has properly been advised regarding counsel and any issues of waiver or conflict.
᷿ Recordation of Proceedings
The court reporter is required by the judge to record all proceedings, with
the exceptions of openings, closing, jury selection and lawyers arguments
regarding questions of law. A motion to record jury selection and opening and closing arguments should be brought forward by counsel and addressed.
Prior to the start of jury selection, motions regarding joinder of defendants, joinder of charges, sequestration of witnesses, and any other relevant trial motions must be made. Prior to the start of trial, make sure that any limiting instructions or suppression issues, decided during pre-trial motions, are placed on the record and that all witnesses are aware of any potential limitations resulting from those motions.
᷿ Jury Issues
The court will proceed to introduce the parties and address the potential jurors. General qualifications of jury service are addressed by the court
before the parties begin the selection process. After the jury and alternate(s) are chosen, they are impaneled and sworn. Other concerns, such as note taking, etc., are addressed.
Prior to the start of trial, add or modify any necessary anticipated instructions, preparations for objections and limiting instructions, exhibits, or additional witnesses to your trial notebook.
Each party presents a brief forecast of the facts, law and issues relevant to the trial.
᷿ State’s Case in Chief
The State must present evidence, and has the burden of proof on every element
of the criminal charge(s) against the defendant.
᷿ Defense Motion to Dismiss
At the conclusion of the State’s evidence, the defense should make a motion to dismiss the case based on N.C.G.S. 15A-1221(a)(6).
᷿ Defense Evidence
The defendant is not required to offer any evidence. The court will both inform
the defendant of this right, as well as inquire into the informed consent of the
᷿ Rebuttal and additional evidence
Rebuttal evidence is permitted by either party. It is in the judge’s discretion to
allow or deny any additional evidence prior to the verdict.
᷿ Defense motion to dismiss
At the conclusion of all evidence, the defense should make a motion to dismiss pursuant to N.C.G.S. 15A-1227(a)(2)
᷿ Charge conference
Each party will submit, whether orally or in writing, at the judge’s discretion, the jury instructions they wish to be delivered to the jurors. If offered to the court in written form, copies must be given to the opposing parties. The actual conference, held outside of the jury’s presence, but recorded for the record, will cover what instructions the jury will hear on the offenses, any lesser included offenses, affirmative defenses, any further instructions, and any subtractions or additions to the pattern jury instructions or tendered instructions that will be made to the jury. Potential verdicts and verdict sheets are also prepared at this time.
᷿ Closing Arguments
Depending on the order of the closing arguments, each party will present their final argument prior to the court charging the jury.
᷿ Jury Charge
The jury will be charged based on the instructions devised during the charging conference. It is vital that all parties carefully review the court’s charge to assure no words are mistakenly misspoke or not included. All 12 jurors must agree in order to return a verdict. It is in the court’s discretion whether or not to submit the instructions in writing. Alternate jurors will be discharged at this time, and may not be substituted after deliberations have begun.
᷿ Jury Deliberations
The jury will begin their deliberations by selecting a foreperson. Afterwards, the
verdict form will be delivered by the bailiff, and deliberations may begin. Any new
issues that counsel need to address will be done at this time outside the jury’s presence, and if new instructions or changes need to be made the jury will be returned and instructed appropriately.
The jury will return a verdict or, if unable, will deadlock. The jury will then be officially discharged, if there are no further proceedings at issue.
᷿ Discharge or sentence defendant
If the verdict is not guilty, the defendant will be discharged and released. If found guilty, the court will rule on any motions to dismiss, move to any additional proceeding or jury hearing phase of the trial (such as habitual felon status). The defendant will be sentenced, and then either committed to custody, sent through any probationary registration procedures, or, if appealed, released or not on bail.