Your jury trial might not be like what you see on TV. Contrary to what many may think, real life court trials rarely look like what people may think based on what they have watched on TV and in the movies. I moved to write this piece because over the last couple of months I have spoken to individuals who have contacted my office regarding their thoughts on how they would present their story to a jury. Although these individuals were in the early stage of investigation into a possible medical malpractice claim, a disturbing trend was discovered in their understanding of a civil jury trial.
Before I move on, please remember that if you already have an attorney that you should speak with your attorney about the specifics of your case and possible jury trial. The information that I will present in this article will be general in nature. Regardless, it is a good foundation for some of the key issues that present themselves in a Maryland civil jury trial.
WHY YOUR JURY TRIAL MIGHT NOT LOOK LIKE WHAT YOU SEE ON TV…
Many TV shows and movies do a poor job of reflecting a civil jury trial. From yelling and screaming at witnesses, to everyone talking over each other, to the smoking gun witness coming into the courtroom at the last minute, entertainment TV is the last thing you want to use to try and understand your jury trial experience. Contrary to what most people think, both sides, the plaintiff and the defendant, will usually have a good idea as to the issues that will need to be tried.
One of the reasons that each side will have a good idea as to what will be presented in trial is because of discovery. In Maryland both the plaintiff and the defendant have an opportunity to use discovery to better understand the issues for trial. During the discovery process, tools like interrogatories, request for admissions, requests for production of documents, and depositions will be used to narrow the issues. All these things reduce the chance of “surprise” during trial.
In addition, the rules of evidence, and other procedural rules, will govern the trial. What this means is that witnesses will not be able to say whatever they want. For example, before trial, motions in limine may be filed to exclude certain evidence. If the judge excludes said evidence, this means that the jury will never hear or see that evidence. This point can cause a lot of confusion for some people because it is their understanding that they will be able to always explain everything that happened to them and this may not be the case.
Finally, the smoking gun witness who shows up at the last-minute unknown to the opposing side is just not in reality in most instances. During the process both sides will have to turn over their witness lists. Because this is the case, each side will already know what witnesses may testify at trial. If you have a witness that is important, more than likely that witness will have been deposed during the discovery process. Remember, a deposition is a question and answer session with attorneys asking a witness questions before the trial.
“YOU CAN’T HANDLE THE TRUTH!”
Even though all the screaming and yelling, and even the last-minute smoking gun witness walking into the trial at the 12th hour, makes for great TV and entertainment, your civil jury trial will more than likely be entirely different. Therefore, your jury trial might not be like what you see on TV. Before I close, remember to ask your attorney about specific questions you may have regarding your upcoming civil jury trial.
Marcus B. Boston, Esq.
2 Wisconsin Circle, Suite 700
Chevy Chase, Maryland 20815
1-833-4 BABY HELP