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A jury trial is a criminal or civil trial. In the United States, there are usually 12 jurors in a criminal trial. The number of jurors in a civil trial depends on the state. Jury members are first chosen from the general population on a random basis. Then, each side of the case questions potential jurors to reveal any biases that may interfere with a juror member’s ability to determine guilt or innocence based on the facts presented in a case. This questioning process is known as voir dire which is an French term that means "to speak the truth."
Lawyers can refuse prospective jurors for cause that they seem biased as well as refuse a set limit of juror prospects for no reason. A refusal without a reason given is called peremptory. After the jury is selected, the trial begins with opening arguments. Each side receives the opportunity to persuasively inform the jury about the evidence they will present and their position on it.
The presentation of evidence in a jury trial follows opening arguments. The defense may or may not present evidence. In most cases, the defense lawyer will present it. After all of the evidence is presented, closing arguments are made and then the jury deliberates to reach a verdict. There is no set way for the jury to discuss the case in order to reach a decision.
All jury members are placed in a locked room to reach a verdict based on the evidence presented. They are reminded to base their verdict on the facts. The jury room is private and when the verdict is ready to be announced, jury members do not explain how they reached their decision.
Some people say it’s better to try a case in front of a judge rather than have a jury trial. They argue that jurors may be easily swayed by emotion even when they are reminded to base the verdict on evidence and facts. Yet others point out that the judge still decides on the facts to be presented.
The accused may waive his or her right to a jury trial in favor of a trial by judge, called a bench trial, with no jury. The choice between having a jury trial or a bench trial can be a very difficult one for the accused to make.
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