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Trial

A trial is the proceeding where the prosecution attempts to convict a person accused of a crime. A trial occurs in a courtroom before a judge. The judge is the "referee" and the final decision-maker in a trial. If the defendant has waived her right to a jury, the judge may also act as the fact-finder and determine guilt or innocence. Also present in the courtroom are the judge's court clerk, who receives and marks evidence. The court reporter sits near the bench and transcribes, word-for-word, all utterances in the courtroom. If the court reporter fails to accurately transcribe the proceedings, the defendant may be entitled to a new trial. The bailiff, a law enforcement officer, maintains security, and is assigned to the court with the responsibility of overseeing the conduct of all the participants.

The bailiff may also be responsible for transporting a defendant who has remained in jail between her holding cell and the courtroom. Additionally, the bailiff secures the jury during trial breaks and deliberation, and acts as a go-between for the jury, since the judge, attorneys, defendant and witnesses may not interact with the jury.

A trial proceeds under specific rules of procedure and evidence. Rules of procedure govern the pretrial dealings between the prosecution and the defendant's attorney (or the defendant if she is representing herself) regarding "discovery," whereby each side is informed of the other's theories and evidence. At trial, the rules set out the procedure for selection of the jury, the order of opening and closing statements, the presentation of the evidence, the examination and cross-examination of witnesses and the judge's instructions to the jury when it deliberates.