acquit- A jury or a judge at the end of a criminal trial renders a verdict for the defendant finding the accused not guilty.
back-to-back life sentences- A term used to describe consecutive life terms imposed by a judge when there were two crimes committed by the defendant, both of which can result in punishment of a life term.
challenge- Jury selection is a vital part of the right to a fair trial. In a criminal jury trial it is the right of either the prosecutor or the defense lawyer to remove a juror from sitting on the jury. When this is done for a justified reason such as prejudice, the basis of the challenge is for cause. If the juror is removed without cause it is called a peremptory challenge. Typically each side is given a set number of peremptory challenges. The objective is to select a jury which is fair to both sides; or as many jury trials go, unfair to both sides.
cross examination- After direct examination, the other party can cross examine the same witness. This usually entails questions that can be leading and aggressive.
criminal calendar- The presiding judge's list of criminal cases to be called in court for some legal proceeding or purpose. Proceedings can include arraignments, pretrial hearings, preliminary hearings, bail settings, motions and sentencing.
grand jury- Some states still use the grand jury system. In essence it is a probable cause hearing before a jury to determine if there is enough evidence to hold the accused over for trial. Many states now use the "preliminary hearing" system which allows the judge independently to make the probable cause finding rather than going through the expense of a grand jury.
guilty- A legal finding by a judge or a jury of someone who has been charged with a crime and has been found to have legally committed that crime. A defendant may also be found guilty subject to a plea without a trial as the result of a plea bargain.
finding- The determination of a contested factual question by a judge or jury. Fact finders are usually the men and women of a jury.
hung jury- When a jury is deadlocked and cannot reach a unanimous decision concerning the guilt or innocence of the defendant. The judge will be forced to declare a mistrial. The prosecutor will need to decide whether it is worth the expense of another trial. Most states only allow prosecutors three chances to obtain a verdict.
jury- Typically a collection of twelve members of the defendant's community sworn to hear the facts of a case, apply the law, and determine the guilt or innocence of the accused. In a criminal trial the law requires a unanimous decision by the jury. Civil court juries do not require a unanimous verdict.
jury panel- A master list from which jurors are chosen to sit in the jury box and answer questions about their ability to be unbiased and fair as prospective jurors.
jury selection- The procedure by which a jury is chosen. From a panel of potential jurors the judge and attorneys ask questions of prospective jurors to determine if they can be fair and unbiased about the case.
jury tampering- A federal and state crime of intentionally and illegally influencing the outcome of a criminal trial by making direct or indirect contact with a juror.
jury trial- In a criminal trial the defendant has a constitutional right to have the case presented to a jury for all factual determinations of guilt or innocence. This right can only be waived by a knowing and intelligent waiver the defendant.
vacate- The judge has the ultimate power to rule on all issues of fact and law. The court can even vacate a judgment if he believes it to be improper.
voir dire- French for "speak the truth." It is the formal questioning of prospective jurors to determine if they could be fair and follow the law as it relates to their judgments and predispositions. Prospective jurors are asked to speak the truth about their ideas and feelings relative to the crime they must judge. If the juror is so biased or has such prejudice that he or she could not be fair and follow the law, the juror will be excused and removed from serving.
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