My case is going to jury trial. What should I expect?
Regrettably, we have been unable to settle your case. The final resort is to go to trial and let the jury decide what is the fair value of your case.
WHAT IS THE PROCEDURE, I.E. SCHEDULE OF EVENTS?
Typically, the schedule of events in a jury trial before Judge is as follows:
Attorney conference with Judge. Typically, the Judge will want to confirm with both attorneys before starting a trial to result in last-minute motions and/or to alert the judge as to any special or unique legal issues that can be expected to arise during the trial of the case. Typically, the Judge does not want the parties present during this part of the trial.
Jury selection. Trials in Minnesota are before a jury of six to eight people. In the event that any of the jurors are unable to complete a trial and should be excused from jury service by the Judge, it can proceed to a final decision by a jury of at least six.
The jury selection process includes questioning by the judge and then the attorneys for all of the parties. This is called “Voir Dire.” During the jury selection process, jurors may be excused on the basis of a “challenge for cause,” which means that the juror has indicated that there is some legal basis that would disqualify the jury.
After the jury questioning, each party is allowed to strike to jurors without having to give any reason for doing so. The remaining jurors then will be formally “seated” on the jury panel that will listen to the evidence and decide the case.
Opening Statements. After the jury is selected, each of the attorneys is allowed to give an opening statement. The Plaintiff’s attorney goes first, followed by the defense attorneys. The attorneys are allowed, in their opening statements, to outline briefly the legal issues and the expected evidence. They are not supposed to “argue” the case.
Presentation of the Evidence. After the opening statements, the parties are allowed to present their evidence. The plaintiff proceeds first with the testimony of witnesses and the offering of exhibits such as medical records, medical bills and other types of documentary evidence. After the plaintiff submits his/her presenting evidence and “rests,” the defendant is allowed to proceed with the presentation of evidence. After the defense “rests,” the plaintiff is then allowed to present rebuttal evidence. The rules of evidence are very strict as to what rebuttal evidence can be offered and come as a consequence, rebuttal evidence is rarely offered and/or allowed by the judge.
Closing arguments. After the presentation of the evidence, each attorney is allowed to make a “closing statement,” in which the attorney is allowed to fully argue the case. In this portion of the trial, the defense attorney goes first. The plaintiff’s attorney argues last.
Jury instructions. At the conclusion of the case, the judge will instruct the jury as to the law that they are to apply to the evidence that they have heard, then arriving at a “special verdict.” (Some judges prefer to give the jury instructions before the closing arguments. The majority of judges give the jury instructions after the lawyers have completed the closing arguments.) The special verdict contains a list of questions that the jurors are required to answer. The jury to answers to these questions on the special verdict is then used by the judge to arrive at the final judgment, or decision in the case.
Jury Deliberation. The jury is then sent to the jury room for “deliberation,” a term that simply refers to the process of making the decision and arriving at the answers that they place on the special verdict. During the first 6 hours, the verdict must be unanimous. After six hours of deliberation, the verdict can be reached by all but one dissenting juror. The special verdict form is then presented to the judge. The parties and the other attorneys are not required to remain during the jury deliberation process and typically do not. The judge or his courtroom personnel will then call the attorneys for the respective parties and advise them of the jury’s decision.