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Trial Procedures

Principles of the Criminal Justice System In the Canadian criminal justice system, the burden of proof rests with the Crown. This means it is up to the Crown to prove, beyond a reasonable doubt (not any doubt, but a reasonable doubt that the accused is !uilty. "nder the Canadian system, the accused is presumed innocent until proven !uilty. If the Crown is unable to prove that the accused is !uilty, then the accused must be ac#uitted or declared not !uilty. These principles are the cornerstone of the Canadian le!al system and form the foundation of criminal trial proceedin!s. Criminal Trial Process $ost criminal trials are held before a jud!e without a jury. In these cases, it is up to the jud!e to hear the facts and decide the law. The Crown presents its evidence first, as it is presumed that the accused is innocent. It is up to the Crown to prove its case a!ainst the accused. The Crown must provide the defence with all relevant information re!ardin! the offence. This procedure ensures that a defence can be made re!ardin! the accusations. It is then the role of the defence to produce evidence that would raise a reasonable doubt as to whether or not the accused actually committed the offence. The jud!e listens to both sides and then ma%es a decision in the case based on the facts presented. If at the end of the trial there is a reasonable doubt e&istin! on any element of the crime, then the accused must be ac#uitted. In the criminal trial procedure, the accused must be informed of the char!es. The trial must be held within a reasonable amount of time. The lon!er the delay in the trial the more dama!e that is done to one's reputation and the more li%ely inaccurate recollections may occur from witness testimony. (oles in the Courtroom The jud!e is a %ey participant in the criminal trial process and must remain impartial at all times. In a trial without a jury, it is the role of the jud!e to listen to the facts, to determine the creditably of the evidence, and to ma%e a decision based on the Crown and defence presentations. The role of the Crown is to present a case that adheres to the rules and procedures !overnin! the Canadian judicial system. The defence counsel is to provide the best le!al defence for the accused. The Jury )n accused can choose a trial by jury for certain indictable offences. In Canada, the jury consists of twelve individuals who represent a cross*section of Canadian society. +ames of potential jurors are pic%ed randomly from the voters' list and those selected must complete a #uestionnaire. "nder the ,ntario Juries )ct, jurors must be Canadian citi-ens who are ./ years of a!e or older, who have no prior conviction of an indictable offence. Police officers, lawyers, medical doctors, veterinarians, law students, or anyone in the law enforcement profession cannot be considered for jury duty. The jury is selected by the Crown, the defence, and the accused. 0oth the defence and the Crown have a ri!ht to challen!e potential jurors. The purpose of challen!es is to create an impartial jury. There are two types of challen!es1 challen!es for cause and peremptory challen!es. In challen!e for cause, a juror could be challen!ed for bias. It is believed that either the juror %nows the accused or has already made up his mind re!ardin! the case, due to prior %nowled!e or media covera!e of the event. In a peremptory challen!e, the juror can be dismissed from jury duty without any e&planation. There are a

limited number of peremptory challen!es available to the Crown and the defence dependin! on the seriousness of the crime. ,nce the jury is selected, it will be its job to listen to the evidence, assess the credibility of the evidence, and wei!h the facts presented. 0efore the jury leaves to deliberate or decide on the verdict of the case, the jud!e must char!e or instruct the jury on the law and how it applies to the facts presented. 2vidence 2vidence is the way in which the Crown and the defence try to reconstruct the chain of events. The evidence tries to convey the facts to the court so that a jud!ement can be rendered. ,nly relevant evidence is usually admissible. 3owever, decidin! what evidence is admissible is a hi!hly comple& issue, as assumptions re!ardin! pieces of information are often made. There are many rules of evidence that e&ist in trial procedure. 2vidence can be e&cluded from the trial if proper procedures durin! the investi!ative process are not followed. There are many different types of evidence1 witness testimony, physical evidence, and circumstantial evidence. 2vidence !iven by witnesses, or direct evidence, is usually a verbal description of what the witness %nows about the events. The way a witness describes and interprets the event depends on the individual's personal filters. ,nce a witness !ives his or her account, the witness is subjected to a cross* e&amination by the opposin! lawyer. The chief purpose of this is to #uestion of the credibility of the witness and the reliability of the evidence presented. Second*hand %nowled!e or hearsay evidence is not admissible in court. The witness must see or hear first*hand the events in order for the evidence to be considered in the courtroom. Physical evidence may include samples of bodily fluids, such as blood, semen, hair, fibre samples, fin!erprints, or weapons found at the scene. In recent years 4+) is increasin!ly used in criminal trial procedures. 5orensic e&perts conduct tests and present this information in the court throu!h the testimony of an e&pert witness. 6uestionin! in such cases may focus on the procedures used to collect the evidence, the tests used, the potential for evidence to be tampered with, or the mar!ins of error that could e&ist. Circumstantial evidence is indirect evidence that lin%s the accused to the crime. 5or e&ample, somethin! belon!in! to the accused may have been left at the crime scene but there is no direct evidence to prove that the accused actually committed the crime. If either side believes that the evidence should not be admissible to the court, a procedure %nown as voir dire (5rench for 7to see, to say8 ta%es place. If there is a jury, the jury is removed for the procedure, while the lawyers ar!ue over whether or not the evidence should be used. If the evidence is deemed inadmissible, the jury will not be told of the evidence. In trials before a jud!e, the jud!e stays in the courtroom durin! the voir dire, but if the evidence is ruled inadmissible the jud!e will disre!ard the evidence heard durin! the voir dire. Tas%1 $any ar!ue that with the lar!e number of )merican television and film versions of criminal law trials, youn! people in Canada %now very little of the actual Canadian trial procedure. Students have little understandin! of the role of the Crown, of a defence lawyer, and other criminal trial procedures. 9our tas% is to create a multi*media presentation that e&plains the criminal trial procedures to youn! people. 0e as creative as possible.