Who Are the Key People in a Criminal Trial?

gavel - people in a criminal trial

Who Are the Key People in a Criminal Trial?

During a criminal trial, many different people are involved in the action taking place in the courtroom. Each person has a different job to do, and it is important to know and understand their roles if you are involved in a criminal trial. In this guide, we will give you an overview of the key players, from the judge all the way down to the defendant. 

Important People in a Criminal Trial

1: The Judge 

Holding the highest seat in the courtroom, the judge is expected to be fair and impartial while ensuring strict adherence to the law. The judge must give each side a reasonable amount of time to make their cases, and they are responsible for maintaining order during the trial. 

During trials with juries, the judge is responsible for making sure the jury understands their duty according to the law. If a defendant is found guilty, the judge is responsible for handing down the sentence. A judge also has the responsibility of examining the evidence brought before them and determining whether or not it meets the legal standards for admission in court. 

2: The Court Staff 

There are several different roles that the court staff fills during a criminal trial.  

The Bailiffs 

These officers are responsible for maintaining the security of the courtroom. They help keep order by handling errands for the judge or clerk, like handing over paperwork or evidence to the judge or jury. They might also physically remove people who are not behaving properly in the courtroom.  

The Court Reporters 

Also called clerks, court reporters are responsible for recording all spoken words during a trial. They work in real time to create a written record as the trial takes place. This allows the judge and other people involved in the trial the ability to look back and check the facts of the case. After a trial is over, the court reporter ensures that the written documentation is filed securely. This preserves an accurate record in case of a future appeal.

Court Interpreters 

If a person does not speak the language of the court or is deaf and hard of hearing, the court can hire an interpreter. The interpreter must be impartial—they cannot be a friend or family member of the defendant. In Arizona, all court interpreters must earn their credentials by passing language exams and taking classes in ethics. 

3: The Lawyers

Also known as attorneys, the lawyers are there to protect the rights of their clients and offer evidence or arguments before the judge and jury. They are expected to understand and follow all the rules of the court.

Prosecuting Attorneys

In criminal cases, the prosecuting attorneys present cases against people who have been suspected of breaking a law. They decide which charges should be filed according to the evidence, and ask for specific sentences based on the charges. In Arizona, each county elects its own prosecuting attorneys. 

Defense Attorneys 

The defense attorneys are responsible for protecting the rights of their clients and ensuring a fair trial. They do this by building a strong defense based on any and all evidence they can find. Choosing the right attorney is the most important part of defending yourself against criminal charges in a courtroom.

4: The Witnesses 

In criminal trials, both the prosecution and the defense can call upon witnesses to testify in court. There are several types of witnesses, and each provides a different kind of evidence. 

  • An earwitness can testify about something they heard firsthand.
  • An eyewitness provides testimony about something they saw firsthand. 
  • A character witness gives evidence regarding someone’s reputation.
  • An expert witness provides specialized information (for example, a medical doctor explaining how certain injuries could be obtained, or a chemist providing an explanation of how a poison can be created).

5: The Jury Members 

A jury is a group of people who are tasked by the state to decide if the defendant in a criminal trial is guilty or innocent. In Arizona, the number of people on a jury depends on the potential sentence for the crime. For cases where the defendant faces 30 years or more, a life sentence, or the death penalty, the jury must consist of 12 persons. For all other cases, the jury may consist of 8 people. But in every criminal trial, the jury must unanimously agree on the verdict. If one of them has a reasonable doubt, they cannot convict the defendant.

6: The Plaintiff 

The plaintiff is the party that is pressing charges. In criminal cases, the plaintiff is always the state. If the crime has any victims, they will usually appear as witnesses. 

7: The Defendant 

The defendant in criminal cases is the person being tried for a crime. They may also be called as a witness during the trial.

How to Address the Key Players in the Courtroom

Entering a courtroom can be intimidating. If you are the defendant, you need to act with proper respect in the courtroom. If you do not, it could negatively impact your case. While your lawyer will do most of your speaking for you, addressing the people in the court respectfully can go a long way toward making a favorable impression. 

When speaking with the judge, use the term “your honor.”

When speaking with attorneys, use “sir” or “ma’am.”

If You Are Facing Criminal Court You Need A Certified Criminal Attorney 

If you are facing a criminal trial in the Arizona courts you need a strong defense attorney on your side. Todd Coolidge is a Certified Criminal Defence Attorney with over 25 years of experience and a winning track record. He believes that every case deserves his personal attention, so if you go with the Coolidge Law Firm, your case will not be passed off to someone with less experience.

If you want to secure the best possible outcome for your case, contact us today to schedule a consultation. 



Images used under creative commons license – commercial use (5/15/24). Photo by Tingey Injury Law Firm on Unsplash.