This is the next post in my series on the handling of domestic violence charges in Louisville, Kentucky. My last article discussed what defendants can expect after a domestic violence arrest. It is important to understand that contacting a criminal defense lawyer sooner, rather than later, can help to ensure that a proper defense is prepared on your behalf. In this article I will discuss the process of attending trial in such a case. Trial is a complicated process and it is important that you retain an experienced attorney to assist you.
Kentucky grants the right of a jury trial to those charged with all violations, misdemeanors and felonies. This means that someone facing domestic violence charges will have the right to have the issue of guilt or innocence decided by jurors from the community or the judge in your assigned courtroom. If one has invoked their right to a jury trial in their case, the day of trial will begin with the selection of the jurors. A group of citizens from the community will form the jury pool. The attorneys for the defense and the prosecution will ask questions to the potential jurors. The purpose of these questions is to educate the jury pool as to the law of the case and to identify biases the potential jurors may have that could cause an unfair trial.
If a potential juror’s answer to voir dire questions demonstrate that the individual cannot keep an open mind, then the Judge, either independently or on motion by one of the attorneys, may elect to remove them from the pool for cause. The prosecution and the defense will each be able to remove a certain number of individuals from the pool using peremptory challenges, more for a felony trial and fewer for a misdemeanor trial. A potential juror may not be removed, however, for reasons involving ethnicity, religion, gender, or some other protected characteristic. The jury will be empaneled once the selection of the jurors is complete.
The attorneys for each side will make an opening statement as to the testimony and evidence which the jurors can expect to hear and see. The prosecution, which has the burden to prove the charges beyond a reasonable doubt, will then present its witnesses and evidence during its case-in-chief. The defense lawyer has the right to cross examine all the witnesses called by the prosecution in order advance the defense theory and question the credibility of certain witnesses. After the prosecution’s case, the defense may then put on its case-in-chief in defense of the charges. Sometimes, if the prosecution has failed to adequately prove its case, it may not be necessary for the defense to present any witnesses or evidence at all. This is a strategic decision that can be utilized to preserve the defendant’s constitutional right against self incrimination.
If the defense presents evidence or witnesses during its case-in-chief, the prosecution may follow with “rebuttal” evidence. It is important to understand that the prosecution may not raise new evidence on rebuttal. They may only use this portion of the proceedings to directly refute claims which have been made by the defense. Closing arguments will then take place – first the defense, then the prosecution – where the attorneys argue how the law should apply to facts of the case and to argue why certain witness or items of evidence should not be believed to be truthful.
The jurors will deliberate and return a verdict of “guilty” or “not guilty.” To return a valid verdict, the jurors must be unanimous, meaning they all have to agree. If they do not all agree, then the case will have to go to trial again. If the defendant is still in jail and is acquitted with a “not guilty” verdict, then he or she will be released almost immediately. If the case ends in a conviction, the same jury will recommend a sentence, and will even hear new evidence relevant to sentencing if the defendant was convicted of a felony. The defendant will then be sentenced by the judge at a later date.
A point I cannot stress enough is that trial is a complicated process. The rules of evidence will be strictly enforced. Failure to follow the Court’s rules and procedures can result in the defense not being able to admit necessary and crucial evidence. This, in turn, can harm the accused’s chances of presenting a proper and adequate defense. By hiring a lawyer who is familiar with the process you help to ensure that your rights remain protected.
I have been practicing law since 2009 and my firm is devoted to protecting the rights of the accused. If you are charged with domestic violence then contact my office today to speak with a Louisville defense attorney.