Justice Process - Trial
If the accused pleads "not guilty", a trial will take place. If the Crown elects to proceed summarily, the accused will have a trial in Ontario Court of Justice by judge alone. If the Crown elects to proceed by indictment, the accused will have a choice of remaining in Ontario Court of Justice or proceed in Superior Court of Justice by judge alone or judge and jury.
What happens at the trial?
When the trial takes place, the Crown calls the witnesses first and presents evidence to support their case. The defence will cross-examine. The defence never has to call any witnesses as the burden is always on the Crown to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
For the accused to be found guilty, the Crown must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the accused committed the offence that they have been charged with. The defence, through cross-examination of the Crown witnesses, will challenge the credibility and reliability of each witness.
The Crown prosecutor will present the facts of the case to the court by asking the victim and witnesses questions about what happened.
- After each witness testifies about his or her knowledge about the incident, the defence lawyer will ask questions to get some clarifications, to challenge the evidence presented or to challenge the credibility of the witness. This is called a cross-examination. The Crown prosecutor can re-examine the witness after the cross-examination by the defence lawyer.
- After the Crown prosecutor has presented the case, the defence lawyer can call their witnesses and present evidence in support of the accused.
- The Crown can cross-examine the witnesses after they testify for the defence.
- After all the witnesses have testified, both sides will make final statements. Final statements are a summary of evidence that was presented by the different sides at the trial.
If you want to see inside a courtroom please check out the Animated Courtroom.
Will the accused give evidence?
The accused will be in the courtroom when the witnesses give their evidence but the accused is not obligated to testify at the trial.
If the accused chooses to give evidence, the Crown prosecutor is allowed to ask questions which the accused must answer.
When is the trial over?
After all the evidence has been presented and witnesses have been heard, the Crown prosecutor and the defence lawyer will make final statements.
When there is a trial with a jury:
- The judge will tell the jury what laws apply to the case, and how to consider the evidence they have heard. This is called instructing the jury.
- The members of the jury must then decide if the accused is guilty or not guilty. For the accused to be found guilty, the jury must be certain beyond a reasonable doubt that the accused committed the offence.
- The members of a jury are required to meet until they reach a unanimous decision.
- If the jury cannot reach a unanimous decision, the judge will declare a mistrial and a new trial may take place.
When there is a trial with a judge alone:
- The judge must review all the evidence and decide whether or not the accused is guilty. For the accused to be found guilty, the judge must be certain beyond a reasonable doubt that the accused committed the offence.
- Sometimes the judge will reach a decision right away but often the judge will take several days or weeks before announcing a verdict.