How does a trial work?

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EllieC130
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#1
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#1
Basically I'm writing a play in which a trial takes place but I can't write it correctly. I tried watching Law and Order for inspiration but I don't know what to do and I don't know how to write it. The defendant is a man who supposedly shot this other man in cold blood but it's hinted to that he's covering up for her. He continues to do so until the trial where he claims it was her but then she's called to the stand and gives her version of events implicating him. There's then a recess. I have no idea how to present this. Please help.
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nulli tertius
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#2
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(Original post by EllieC130)
Basically I'm writing a play in which a trial takes place but I can't write it correctly. I tried watching Law and Order for inspiration but I don't know what to do and I don't know how to write it. The defendant is a man who supposedly shot this other man in cold blood but it's hinted to that he's covering up for her. He continues to do so until the trial where he claims it was her but then she's called to the stand and gives her version of events implicating him. There's then a recess. I have no idea how to present this. Please help.
Take yourself for a day to your local Crown Court.
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Crumpet1
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Well if it is set in the UK, don't watch Law & Order for starters, or you'll get all the terminology wrong (we have adjournments, not recesses). Go to a Crown Court, as NT says. Watch British court dramas, not American.
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EllieC130
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#4
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(Original post by Crumpet1)
Well if it is set in the UK, don't watch Law & Order for starters, or you'll get all the terminology wrong (we have adjournments, not recesses). Go to a Crown Court, as NT says. Watch British court dramas, not American.
Don't worry I was watching Law and Order UK.
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Crumpet1
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(Original post by EllieC130)
Don't worry I was watching Law and Order UK.
Never tried it so don't know how well it depicts the UK. Try the Rumpole books. John Mortimer was a barrister so that would be accurate about criminal law, plus it would be enjoyable research (the books are great).
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Tortious
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#6
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(Original post by Crumpet1)
Never tried it so don't know how well it depicts the UK. Try the Rumpole books. At least that would be fun research.
L&O has the propensity to make mistakes - it used to be on on a Wednesday night and I had A Level Law on Thursday morning, so we all used to discuss it. There was one episode where the defendant pleaded automatism when the correct defence would've been insanity (I seem to recall it being something to do with a "warrior gene").

OP, I'd have a look at Silk, even if for no other reason than that the next series is starting on BBC One soon! :p:
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Crumpet1
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OP, be aware of the British caution "You do not have to say anything, but it may harm your defence if you do not mention when questioned something which you later rely on in court. Anything you do say may be given in evidence".

Your proposed case falls straight into the issue raised by the caution - the defendant didn't say anything at the time but in court he wants to blame somebody else. This is probably something you should consider when writing, and you should try to find out what effect this would have on your defendant's defence in practice.
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danniibee
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#8
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since the crime you're talking about would take place in a crown court take a look at this link for a basic understanding of the way the trial works.

http://ukcriminallawblog.com/2013/03...n-court-trial/
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nulli tertius
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#9
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(Original post by EllieC130)
until the trial where he claims it was her
(Original post by Crumpet1)
OP, be aware of the British caution "You do not have to say anything, but it may harm your defence if you do not mention when questioned something which you later rely on in court. Anything you do say may be given in evidence".

Your proposed case falls straight into the issue raised by the caution - the defendant didn't say anything at the time but in court he wants to blame somebody else. This is probably something you should consider when writing, and you should try to find out what effect this would have on your defendant's defence in practice.
Moreover, what does the Defence Statement say?

What was the original defence the Defendant was running?

A Defendant has to give the terms of his defence in advance of the trial. If he then changes his tune at trial, the prosecution and the judge can comment adversely on it in his summing up. Lawyers get their clients to sign their defence statements personally.

Who called the woman? Did the Defendant call her expecting her to admit the offence only to find that she denied it and implicated him? If that happens the defence are going to make an application for leave to treat the woman as a hostile witness.

Did the prosecution ask for leave to re-open their case and call her?

When you say the woman implicates him; do you mean she simply said "nothing to do with me" or did she give some positive evidence of the Defendant's guilt? If so, why wasn't that evidence put forward in the prosecution case? If the prosecution had that evidence and chose not to call it e.g. she was one of 20 witnesses to the same event and the prosecution decided only to call three others of them, they aren't going to be allowed another bite of the cherry to adduce her evidence of his guilt. They are going to be limited on the admission of the further evidence to questions to rebut the suggestion she was guilty. If the prosecution didn't have her evidence of his guilt was that because this woman had never been interviewed by the police or has she changed her story? If the latter, then the defence is going to X-examine her on her previous inconsistent statement.

The reality here is that any jury is going to pot him. Man makes up allegation in witness box that he has never told his legal team about. Person implicated gives evidence denying it. Inevitable conviction. In reality the defence aren't going to have the time and the police won't have the inclination to try and find evidence to support his changed story. The best the defence are going to be able to do is to ask leave to recall prosecution witnesses to put to them questions that the new defence renders desirable and which were previously not asked as not being relevant to the defence the defence lawyers thought they were running. The defence's heart will be barely in this. As far as most defence lawyers are concerned, the man who changes his story when he gets in the witness box might as well have pleaded guilty and saved everyone a lot of trouble. Non-too-bright defendants who couldn't lie straight in a coffin, will say anything when put under pressure. Defendants changing their story in the witness box, usually under X-examination, is an everyday story from the criminal courts.

This only becomes interesting if the woman has also changed her story. If that happened, one could well see the judge acceding to a request to discharge the jury to allow both prosecution and defence to conduct further investigations. In that case the trial would be re-run from the beginning with both sides running their "true" cases and both sides being able to put previous inconsistent statements to the other side's witnesses.

The prosecution might well have the suspicion that the Defendant and the woman are conspiring together to put doubt in the initial jury's mind. Effectively the Defendant has forced the prosecution to call a witness they didn't intend to call and that witness has then undermined her own credibility and thus that of the prosecution without admitting her own guilt.
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Crazy Jamie
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#10
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#10
Reading through this thread I was getting ready to post something along the same lines as nulli tertius, but obviously now I don't need to. The points raised in that post are all pertinent.

Also, don't watch Law and Order UK. It's really not very good. I watched an episode once and thought I'd done well by ignoring the fact that the same two people who were investigating the crime were also interviewing the Defendant and then representing the Prosecution at trial. Then at the trial one of the people turned to the other and said 'put your wig on; it will impress the jury'. At which point I had to turn it off. I appreciate that crime fiction has to use a degree of artistic licence, but that is just nonsense.

Silk is much better, though. Not fully accurate, certainly, but it is more accurate than the majority and is actually entertaining.
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