What is the Trial Process?
Trials are broken down into three (sometimes four) phases. Each of these phases involves calling witnesses and introducing evidence. The phases are Plaintiff’s case in chief (when the Plaintiff puts up his or her evidence to support his or her claim), the Defendant’s case in chief (when the Defendant puts up his or her evidence to respond to the Plaintiff’s claim and support his or her claim) and the Plaintiff’s rebuttal or reply (when the Plaintiff can introduce new evidence solely to counter the Defendant’s case in chief). Sometimes the court will allow the Defendant surrebuttal (when the Defendant can introduce new evidence solely to respond to new issues raised in rebuttal).
When witnesses testify, their testimony is broken down into four phases. Those phases are direct (when the witness is asked questions by the attorney who called him or her to testify), cross (when the other attorney is allowed to question the witness), re-direct (when the first attorney is allowed to question the witness solely about issues raised in cross) and re-cross (when the other attorney is allowed to question the witness solely about new issues raised in re-directly). Unless the witness is considered hostile or is the opposing party, the attorney calling the witness cannot ask leading questions (questions in which the question suggests the desired answer) and the other attorney can ask leading questions.