What Happens During the Trial of a Criminal Case?

At every serious criminal trial in the United States, the prosecutor must prove to a jury beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant committed the crime charged. The defendant does not have to prove his or her innocence. The prosecutor typically will call one or more witnesses to testify. In some cases, the witnesses are people close to the defendant who claim that the defendant committed a crime. The defendant has a right to testify or compel others to testify on his behalf. Trials can be completed in one day or can last for many months. In general, crimes that are complicated carry more serious penalties require longer trials.