The trial is the pinnacle point of a case. In a criminal matter, the State has to prove that a defendant is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. This means that the government has to bring enough evidence to prove to a jury that the person accused of the crime did in fact commit the crime and that the evidence is strong enough so as to render little doubt in a jury’s mind as to the guilt of the accused.
In a misdemeanor trial, a jury of six sits and hears the evidence. Five of those jurors have to be convinced beyond a reasonable doubt that the government has adequately proven the guilt of the accused.
A felony trial requires twelve jurors
In a jury trial, a judge is the gatekeeper to the evidence coming in and ensures that the jury is properly instructed. The judge does not decide guilt. However, at the election of the accused being tried, a judge could sit as the “fact finder.” In other words, the judge would both determine the admissibility of the evidence as well as the facts that determine guilt.
In the United States, we adhere to the Constitutional principle that a defendant has the right to have their case heard by a jury.