Jury Trial – Wrongful Death Process
Before trial can start, the parties must work together to pick a jury. In a Michigan civil case, twelve jurors are selected. Your lawyer may challenge a juror for cause if he has reason to believe that the individual is biased against your case, or for some reason will not keep an open mind while listening to the evidence. One reason that a person might be excused is if he knows one of the parties, lawyers, or witnesses in the case. Up to twelve jurors may be excused for cause. Then, each lawyer is also permitted to excuse up to three jurors without stating a reason. An experienced lawyer can watch prospective jurors during jury selection to help determine which may seem more likely to agree with the opposing party, and up to three of those people may be excused.
The Plaintiff’s Case
Once the jury is impaneled, the plaintiff has a right to make an opening argument. The defendant may make his opening argument immediately or reserve it until after the plaintiff has finished introducing evidence. Opening arguments typically summarize what each attorney expects the evidence to prove.
Next, the plaintiff calls his witnesses. The plaintiff’s attorney may choose to call the defendant to testify during this time. It’s up to the plaintiff to decide whether to testify, however, if he doesn’t, the defense attorney can call him to speak later in the trial.
After each witness is questioned by the plaintiff’s attorney, the defense attorney can cross-examine him. The purpose of cross-examination is to try to show that the witness does not remember events clearly, is confused, biased, or lying. The plaintiff’s attorney is then permitted to ask more questions to clarify issues that arose during cross-examination.
The Defendant’s Case
When the plaintiff’s attorney has introduced all relevant evidence, he will rest his case. Usually, at this point, the defense lawyer will ask the judge to rule that the case was not proven and enter judgment for the defendant. If the judge denies the motion, the defense attorney will introduce their evidence. This follows essentially the same format as the plaintiff’s case with direct testimony, cross-examination, and re-direct testimony.
After the defense attorney has finished presenting all the evidence, he will usually again ask the judge to rule in his client’s favor. If the judge denies that second motion, each party presents their closing argument. This is the parties’ opportunity to summarize the favorable evidence and ask the jury to decide in their favor.
After The Evidence Is Presented
Once the closing arguments have ended, the judge will read a series of instructions so the jurors know what law to apply while discussing liability. Then they will retire to a separate room to talk about the case and reach a decision. At least ten of them must agree on a verdict before a decision may be announced. In a civil case, the standard of proof each party is trying to meet is “by a preponderance of the evidence.” Thus, the jury must believe that it is more likely than not that events unfolded the way your attorney showed through the evidence.
When at least ten of the jurors agree, they will send a note to the judge that they reached a decision. The court clerk then notifies the parties, and they will return to the courtroom. The jury files in, and the foreman announces the verdict. Sometimes, one of the parties will ask to poll the jury, which means each juror will state how he voted. If at least ten of the jurors agree, the judge will enter the decision as a final verdict.
Having an experienced lawyer on your side call be the difference between winning and losing a trial. Call (269) 342-9900 today for a free consultation with one of our trial lawyers.