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All felony trials are conducted in the superior courts. In Westchester, this means they are conducted in the Supreme Court or the County Court in White Plains.  

Felony trials are either jury or bench trials. In a felony jury trial, 12 jurors are selected; alternate jurors may be selected as well. In a jury trial, the judge determines all questions of law and the jury decides all questions of fact. In a bench trial, there is no jury. Rather, the judge determines all questions of law and fact and renders the verdict. It is the defendant’s right to have a trial by jury, but, except where an indictment charges murder in the first degree, a defendant may elect to have a bench trial. 

A defendant charged with a misdemeanor is also entitled to a jury trial and again, may elect to have a bench, or “single judge” trial, at which there is no jury. A misdemeanor trial is conducted in the local criminal court that has jurisdiction over the matter (in general, where the alleged crime occurred).  In a misdemeanor jury trial, 6 jurors are selected; alternate jurors may be selected as well. 

The order of a jury trial, as adapted from the New York Criminal Procedure Law 260.30, is as follows:

1.  The jury is selected and sworn. 

2.  The court delivers preliminary instructions to the jury concerning its basic functions, duties and conduct.

3.  The People must deliver an opening statement to the jury.  Generally, in the opening statement, the prosecutor informs the jury of the nature of the case and summarizes the evidence that the People intend to offer. 

4.  The defendant may present an opening statement, but is not obligated to do so.

5.  The People must offer evidence in support of their case.  The People’s burden is to prove that the defendant is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

6.  The defendant may offer evidence in his defense.  A defendant has a constitutional right not to testify in his own defense.

7.  After the evidence is presented, the People and the defendant may deliver a summation, also called a closing argument.    

8.  The Court then must deliver a “charge” to the jury.  The charge instructs the jury on the fundamental and material legal principles they must follow in reaching their verdict.    

9.  Finally, the jury retires from the courtroom to deliberate and if possible, render a decision, or verdict.  The verdict must be unanimous.