admission - A statement made by a defendant prior to trial. Admissions are usually construed as true statements of fact which are often used against the defendant at trial.
admission against interest- An admission of the truth of a fact by a defendant or by a witness such that the admission is made against the person's own interests. This is often used as an exception to the hearsay rule.
arraign- When a criminal defendant is formally charged with a crime. The defendant is given a choice to enter a plea of guilty or not guilty. In some cases the court will grant a continuance for the defendant to seek counsel before pleading. This is usually the first court appearance.
arraignment- The first formal hearing in which a person charged with a crime is asked to respond with a plea before a judge. This is the first appearance of a criminal defendant and his lawyer.
character witness- In criminal trials a person who testifies on behalf of the defendant as to the defendant's reputation for honesty and truthfulness is known as a character witness. This type of evidence is usually self-serving and results in a string of rebuttal witnesses showing the defendant has a bad character for truth and honesty.
circumstantial evidence- Any evidence in a trial which is not directly proved but which requires the inference of another fact to prove its existence. For example, "I did not see the dog eat the bone but I saw the dog and then the bone was gone." The jury may infer the dog ate the bone. This is circumstantial evidence. Such evidence is just as admissible as direct evidence.
confirmation hearing- A court hearing held about a month after the Chapter 13 plan is filed, at which the bankruptcy judge approves the plan.
finder of fact- In a criminal or civil trial it is usually the duty of the jury to determine the truth and weight of all facts in controversy. A fact finder is not allowed to determine issues of law. This is reserved only for the judge.
indictment- The judicial proceeding (preliminary hearing or grand jury) in which the sole determination is made of whether there is sufficient evidence to force a defendant to stand trial for felony charges. The burden of proof is very low. All the prosecutor needs to show is that it was more likely than not that the defendant committed the crime.
judgment notwithstanding the verdict- A reversal of a jury's verdict by the trial judge. This occurs when a judge determines there is little or no factual basis for the verdict or that such a verdict is contrary to law. The judge can then enter an alternative verdict in the matter.
judicial discretion- The appellate courts give trial court judges deference in their rulings when reviewing their decisions on the basis that the sitting judge was actually present during trial. Judges are therefore given wide discretion on their rulings and how they conduct their court.
preliminary hearing- A formal hearing to determine whether there is sufficient evidence to hold the accused over to answer felony charges. The burden of proof is minimal. The prosecution normally presents only enough evidence and testimony to show the probability of guilt. The preliminary hearing is heard by a judge rather then a grand jury.
question of fact- The trier of fact determines the truth and weight of all evidence submitted in a criminal trial. In a trial by jury the trier of fact is the jury. In a non-jury trial it is the judge. Questions of fact are all factual issues that must be determined in order to prove the defendant guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. Questions of fact should be distinguished from questions of law which rest in the sole domain of the judge.
question of law- Questions of law are determined only by the judge. They are distinguished from questions of fact which are usually, but not always, determined by the jury as fact finders. Questions of law are legal issues that must be determined in order to proceed with the prosecution of the defendant. Questions of law include interpretation of statutes and case law as well as legal rulings on issues of evidence.
trial- The formal judicial proceeding by which a person is judged guilty or not guilty. The proceeding is guided by rules of evidence and procedure to safeguard against unfair prejudice. All issues surrounding rules and procedure are decided by the judge exclusively. A jury decides all questions of fact. Sometimes, in court trials without a jury the judge is both the finder of fact and law.
ultimate fact - At trial, evidence is considered an ultimate fact if its existence is necessary to prove a required element of the crime. A foundation of facts must often be established before the court will allow an ultimate fact to be introduced into evidence. The mere statement by a witness that "John is a crook" is not sufficient to prove John committed a larceny.
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