Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Casey Anthony Opening Statements Today - Florida Example of How Trials Really Work, B4 You Get There

Casey Anthony's trial began today and in her attorney's opening statement, revelations were given to us all about how her daughter Caylee Anthony died, including allegations that her father George Anthony was involved in covering-up the drowning death of the toddler.

It's being called the biggest trial since O.J. Simpson and most of the news media, national and local, is covering this story. Nancy Grace has her show dedicated to this trial nightly.

You can watch the live feed of the Casey Anthony trial here.

True enough, this is a criminal trial. Personal injury cases have civil trials. Civil procedure and criminal procedure is different.

What Personal Injury Claimants and Plaintiffs Can Learn By Watching the Casey Anthony Trial
Nevertheless, anyone considering filing a personal injury case can learn a lot by watching this trial about what it means to be a plaintiff in a courtroom, fighting for justice when they or a loved one has been seriously injured or suffered a wrongful death.

In a Florida civil trial, just like a Florida criminal trial like the Casey Anthony trial going on now in Orlando, you will have the following:

The Judge
Sitting in robes above the rest of the participants, and able to see everything that's going on, the judge has the job of making sure that proper trial procedure is followed and that the law is followed: when necessary, the judge will make decisions on points of law.

The Jury
Civil plaintiffs must ask for a jury (and pay a jury fee); in criminal cases, they are mandatory unless the defendant waives the jury (and then the judge decides the case). In major cases, there are 12 jurors. In cases with smaller amounts in controversy, there may be less than twelve.

The judge decides what is legally admitted as evidence. The jury decides the facts based on the law given to them (in jury instructions) and the jury makes the final decision (verdict).

The Parties
In a personal injury case, the one who files the suit is the "plaintiff," and the one who is sued is the "defendant." The defendant learns of the lawsuit in pre-suit negotiations, usually; however, some defendants first learn of the lawsuit when they are served with notice of the complaint being filed.

The Evidence
Witnesses give testimony on the stand or via deposition. Witnesses also "prove up" documents that serve as evidence. This can take days or weeks.

The Record
A court reporter is responsible for keeping track of all that happens in the trial: recording all the words spoken and all the exhibits entered as evidence. The record will be the transcript of what the witnesses said in words and the documents that were admitted into evidence. This is what the appellate court reviews if an appeal is filed: the record that the court reporter has accumulated, sealed, and sent to the appeals court.

The Trial
Jury is selected
1. A panel of potential jurors is pulled from the jury room and they are brought to the courtroom. Attorneys for both sides question them, and the judge will sometimes ask questions, too. The goal is to get 12 unbiased people to serve on the jury, along with a couple of alternates.
2. Opening Statements
Lead attorneys for both sides make opening statements. Here, the lawyers give the jury an outline of what they will prove in the evidence. The Plaintiff's attorney gets to speak first at trial, before the defendant's attorney summarizes their defense.
3. Evidence is Given By Both Sides
Witnesses are called. The lawyer that calls the witness asks questions in "direct examination" and the opposition asks his/hers in "cross examination." Documents are presented as evidence as witnesses testify, unless the parties have argued documentary evidence already with the judge in a pre-trial motion.
4. Case Closes
After both sides are finished (they "rest"), then the attorneys give "closing arguments" to the jury.  Each side analyzes the evidence that has been presented during the trial, and argues how it fulfills his position. The Plaintiff will have the chance to rebut the defense's closing argument (and in a criminal case, the prosecution will offer a rebuttal)
5 Jury Decides
After the closing arguments, the judge will instruct the jury - and they will get written instructions that relate what the judge has said. They jury will then be escorted to the jury room to meet and decide. In some cases, they will be sequestered, and forced to stay in hotel rooms and away from their personal lives until they've reached a verdict.
6. Verdict is Issued
Once the jury decides, then the attorneys are contacted and everyone is asked to return to the courthouse to hear the verdict read to them.

By Bryant Esquenazi on May 24, 2011 1:38 PM

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