Jury Trial in the Court of Common Pleas
What Happens at a Jury Trial?
Stages of a Jury Trial:
Verdict of the Jury
How Long Will My Trial Take?
What happens at a jury trial?
Because the State of Delaware has the burden of proof,
it goes first. The chief law enforcement officer of the State is the Attorney
General, and that office prosecutes all criminal and motor vehicle proceedings.
The Attorney General, appoints lawyers to represent the Department of
Justice in prosecuting these cases, and these lawyers are known as Deputy
Attorneys General. All prosecutions are brought on behalf of the State,
and the individual charged with motor vehicle offense(s) or criminal charge(s)
is the defendant.
In a jury trial, the Judge decides questions of law, and the jury decides
questions of fact (whether the defendant is guilty or not guilty on each
of the offenses charged.) The trial begins with jury selection. A potential
pool of jurors is summoned to court on the morning of trial. The Court
of Common Pleas selects jurors from a pool of jurors summoned by the Superior
The potential jurors are asked a series of questions, known as "voir dire."
The Court will inform the potential jurors about the case and will identify
the names of the lawyers and witnesses to be called in the matter. The
jury pool will then be questioned to determine if any potential juror
has any personal interest in the case, or whether a reason exists as to
why a juror may not be able to render a fair and impartial verdict.
For further information on jury service and/or selection, please click
Stages of a Jury Trial
The Deputy Attorney General, on behalf of the
State, may make an opening statement to the jury explaining
the nature of the case and summarizing the evidence it is going
to present. The defendant may likewise make an opening statement
summarizing the evidence it plans to present. The defendant may
wait to make its opening statement until after the prosecution has
completed presenting its evidence.
The State begins presenting evidence by calling
witnesses. Each witness is sworn to tell the truth and testifies
from the witness stand. The Deputy Attorney General begins by asking
questions (direct examination,) and the defendant may then ask questions
of the witness (cross-examination.) The State may ask further questions
of the same witness after cross-examination to clarify matters (redirect
examination.) The defendant may also ask questions to clarify matters
(recross-examination.) The Judge may also ask questions of the witness.
After the last witness for the State has testified, the Deputy Attorney
General will inform the Court that the prosecution, or the State,
has rested its case- in-chief. After the State rests, the defendant
is entitled to present evidence, but is not required to do so.
If the defendant chooses to present evidence, the defendant may
then make its opening statement if it did not do so after the prosecution’s
opening statement. The defendant may begin calling witnesses. As
with the State witnesses, each witness is sworn to tell the truth
and takes a seat in the witness stand. The defendant asks questions
of the witness (direct examination.) The State may then ask questions
of the witness (cross-examination,) followed by redirect and recross-examination.
The defendant is entitled to testify as a witness if he/she chooses
to do so. Since the defendant has a right to remain silent, the
defendant cannot be forced to testify. If the defendant chooses
to testify, then the defendant has waived the right to remain silent,
and the prosecution may cross-examine the defendant.
After the defendant has presented all of his/her witnesses, the
defendant rests. The State may then call rebuttal witnesses. Rebuttal
witnesses are witnesses called to oppose or refute evidence presented
by defense witnesses. Rebuttal witnesses are questioned in the same
manner as other State witnesses.
After all witnesses for the State and the defendant
have testified, the prosecution again rests its case. The jury will
then hear closing arguments. The State begins its closing argument
by reviewing the evidence and describing how the evidence proves
its case. The defendant may then present its closing argument by
reviewing the evidence and describing how it fails to prove the
prosecution’s case. After the defendant makes his/her closing argument,
the prosecution may make a final closing argument.
The Judge prepares jury instructions and will
"charge the jury" after closing arguments have been heard. The instructions
explain the issues in dispute in the case and the positions of the
parties. The Judge will also explain the rules of law pertaining
to the case, and inform the jurors that they are the sole judges
of the facts of the case.
After the Judge has given the jury instructions, the jury recesses
to deliberate the case and render a verdict in the matter.
Verdict of the Jury
After the Judge’s instructions, the jury decides
if the defendant is guilty or not guilty of the charge(s). The verdict
must be determined after careful consideration of all the evidence
presented at the trial, and must be unanimous.
When all the jurors have agreed on a verdict, the foreperson, or
the individual who presides over the jury during deliberations,
announces in court the jury’s verdict.
The Court of Common Pleas uses the Superior Court
jury pool for all of their jury trials. For more information about
being called for jury duty, please click
How long will the trial take?
All participants appearing for a jury trial should plan
to be at the Court for the entire day.