Navigating the Courtroom: A Layperson's Guide to Understanding Trial Processes

Apr 12 / Launi Sheldon

Whether you’re tuning in for the latest high-profile trial or just curious about how court proceedings work, we’ve got you covered with a clear and simple guide.

Witness Questioning

The Order of Things
In a trial, witnesses are questioned in a specific order to build a clear story for the jury
1. Prosecution Witnesses:
These are the first witnesses who talk about what they know regarding the case.

2. Cross-Examination by Defense: After each witness the prosecution talks to, the defense gets a chance to ask questions to find any holes in their stories.

3. Defense Witnesses: Then, it’s the defense’s turn to bring their own witnesses to support their side.

4. Cross-Examination by Prosecution: Now, the prosecution asks these witnesses tough questions to challenge the defense.

5. Rebuttals: Lastly, the prosecution may bring in more witnesses to counter what the defense witnesses said.

This process ensures that the jury hears all sides and helps them make a fair decision.

What Does 'Approaching the Bench' Mean? 

Sometimes, lawyers need to talk to the judge about private legal matters without the jury hearing. They might "approach the bench" to have a quiet conversation or have a "sidebar," which is a quick, private chat at the side of the judge's desk.

After the Verdict: Sentencing

If someone is found guilty, the next step is sentencing. The judge decides the punishment based on the crime's seriousness and other details like the defendant’s past actions and the circumstances of the crime. Sentences can range from a fine or community service to spending time in prison.

Dress Code and Makeup for Defendants

Defendants in jail who are going to trial usually wear regular clothes, not their jail uniforms, to make a good impression on the jury. These clothes often come from their families or lawyers. Since there’s no real makeup in jail, some inmates use creative ways to make do, like using a colored pencil for eyeliner or making lip stain from candy.

DIY Beauty Tips in Prison

Makeup: They might use coffee as eyeshadow or toothpaste to brighten their skin.
Curly Hair: Without curlers, they use strips of fabric twisted into their hair and leave them overnight to get curls by morning.