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Law 101: Legal Guide for the Forensic Expert

Definition of a Trial

Photo of a male witness placing his hand on a book before testifying. Caption reads, 'Trial'
National Institute of Justice (NIJ) (see reuse policy).

In a criminal case, the essence of a trial is the presentation of evidence (proof) sufficient to convince the fact finder that every element of a criminal charge has been proved beyond a reasonable doubt. The fact finder (the entity that determines which evidence to believe, if any) may be the judge alone, or a jury.

In certain cases, where the accused seeks to raise a particular defense, the fact finder must also decide whether the defendant has proved the elements of that defense.

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