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Middle Ages: Jury Trial

Information to help students to research the Middle Ages.

Key Terms

Presumption of innocence: The idea that all people accused of a crime are
innocent until proven guilty.

Burden of proof: The duty of the prosecution to prove that the defendant
committed the crime for which he or she has been charged.

• Standard of proof: The level of evidence needed to convince the court of a
person’s guilt. This level can vary based on the degree of the alleged crime. The
standard for a murder case is “Beyond a reasonable doubt.”

• Reasonable doubt: In a criminal case, prosecutors must present sufficient
evidence to overcome the presumption of innocence and prove a defendant’s guilt
“beyond a reasonable doubt.” In other words, no reasonable doubt about the
defendant’s guilt could exist in the mind of the judge or jury based on the evidence

• Hearsay evidence: A statement provided by someone who did not witness an
event. Instead, someone else told him or her what happened. Such evidence is not
usually allowed in court.

• Evidence presented in court: For a conviction to be legitimate, it must be based
on the evidence presented in court and directly related to the crime.

• Circumstantial evidence: A collection of details that can point to a specific
conclusion but does not provide conclusive proof. Other explanations are possible.

Roles of Judge and Jury

The Jury's Role in a Trial

Key Courtroom People

Judge: A public official appointed to decide cases in a court of law.

Jury: A group of citizens chosen to hear evidence and make a decision in a court of law.

Defendant: An individual, company, or institution sued or accused in a court of law.

Plaintiff: A person who brings an action in a court of law.

Prosecutor: The attorney representing the state's case in a criminal trial. 

Defense Attorney: The attorney representing a defendant in a criminal trial.

Witness: A person who sees an event, typically a crime or accident, take place