Trials in North Carolina are heard by juries of twelve and their verdict must be unanimous for a finding of guilty. The twelve jurors are selected from a representative cross-section of the community. The trial is a presentation of evidence to the jury. It is important to remember that certain evidence may not be admissible, but a lot of evidence is admissible. The trial judge decides what is admissible and what is not admissible. The jury does not decide what evidence it will hear and see. This is not the function of the jury. The function of the jury is to decide issues of fact and credibility (truthfulness). In other words, the jury will decide what really happened. The jury does this by deciding which evidence to believe. It may be a witness that they choose to believe or not to believe or it could be a procedure that was done improperly that may give them a cause for concern. After deciding what happened, the jury will then be given a set of instructions by the trial judge telling them that if they find certain things to be true, they have a duty to find the Defendant guilty and they also have a duty to find the Defendant not guilty if certain things are missing in the case.
Standards Used at Trial
- The Defendant is presumed to be innocent
- The State has the burden of proof
- The State is required to prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt
Normally, in most cases, the State has to come forward with credible evidence in order for a jury to find a defendant guilty of a crime. However, a reasonable doubt can arise from the evidence not being credible or a reasonable doubt can arise from the lack of evidence. Normally, the deficiency of the State’s evidence will show up as a weakness in one of the elements of the crime. For example, the state’s identification witness has given inconsistent statements as to the physical characteristics of the suspect.
Common Issues that can come up at Trial
- A co-defendant may testify against you after receiving a good deal from the State
- If you decide to testify, you will be asked about certain prior convistions on cross examination
- Any statements you have made to law enforcement about the case are relevant and admissible most of the time.