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Trial Participants 

A jury trial involves many people, directly or indirectly. The judge, attorneys, parties, witnesses, and jurors are all direct participants in the courtroom proceedings. The following is a description of their roles:
  • The judge is an elected official who administers proceedings between the parties. The judge conducts the trial, rules on questions of law raised by the attorneys, and, at the close of the trial, instructs the jury on the law that applies to the case.
  • Attorneys represent and advise the parties on the law and all aspects of the trial. They are employed by the parties or, if a defendant is indigent and unable to pay for an attorney in his/her criminal case, an attorney will be appointed by the court at state expense. The court, however, can require the defendant to reimburse the state for these costs, if he/she is able.
  • The district attorney is an elected official who is the prosecutor for the state in criminal cases and represents a victim of crime.
  • The parties in a civil trial are the plaintiff and the defendant; in a criminal trial, they are the state, represented by the district attorney or prosecutor, and the defendant.
  • Witnesses present testimony under oath regarding what they have seen or know about the facts in the case. A witness may testify as an expert based on professional experience.
  • Usually, others indirectly involved provide essential services but are not active trial participants.
  • The circuit clerk is the court's business manager. This elected official is responsible for court records, issuing summonses and subpoenas, collecting court-ordered monies, and conducting other business activities.
  • The sheriff, as an elected official, is the county's chief law enforcement officer. The sheriff serves summonses on witnesses, jurors, and defendants and provides court security.
  • The court reporter records a word-for-word account of all court testimony and proceedings and, in the event of an appeal and upon request of one or both parties, will transcribe the record into a written transcript.
  • The bailiff maintains court order and assists jurors, under the direct supervision of the Presiding Circuit Judge.