How Courts Work

Steps in a Trial

Evidence

The heart of the case is the presentation of evidence. There are two types of evidence -- direct and circumstantial.

  • Direct evidence usually is that which speaks for itself: eyewitness accounts, a confession, or a weapon.
  • Circumstantial evidence usually is that which suggests a fact by implication or inference: the appearance of the scene of a crime, testimony that suggests a connection or link with a crime, physical evidence that suggests criminal activity.

Both kinds of evidence are a part of most trials, with circumstantial evidence probably being used more often than direct. Either kind of evidence can be offered in oral testimony of witnesses or physical exhibits, including fingerprints, test results, and documents. Neither kind of evidence is more valuable than the other.

Strict rules govern the kinds of evidence that may be admitted into a trial, and the presentation of evidence is governed by formal rules.

>>Diagram of How a Case Moves Through the Courts
>>Civil and Criminal Cases
>>Settling Cases
>>Pre-trial Procedures in Civil Cases
>>Jurisdiction and Venue
>>Pleadings
>>Motions
>>Discovery
>>Pre-Trial Conferences
>>Pre-trial Procedures in Criminal Cases
>>Bringing the Charge
>>Arrest Procedures
>>Pre-Trial Court Appearances in Criminal Cases
>>Bail
>>Plea Bargaining
>>Civil and Criminal Trials
>>Officers of the Court
>>The Jury Pool
>>Selecting the Jury
>>Opening Statements
>>Evidence
>>Direct Examination
>>Cross-examination
>>Motion for Directed Verdict/Dismissal
>>Presentation of Evidence by the Defense
>>Rebuttal
>>Final Motions
>>Closing Arguments
>>Instructions to the Jury
>>Mistrials
>>Jury Deliberations
>>Verdict
>>Motions after Verdict
>>Judgment
>>Sentencing
>>Appeals


How Courts Work Home | Courts and Legal Procedure | *Steps in a Trial*
The Human Side of Being a Judge | Mediation

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