By Collin County Criminal Defense Lawyer Jeremy Rosenthal
Lawyers take for granted that everyone understands a trial from television — but not even television makes the distinctions very clear. And there’s no such thing as a stupid question. Usually.
A jury determines what are known as “questions of fact.” a judge determines “questions of law.” The difference can be complicated but here’s a common example that demonstrates the difference.
Take an assault/ family violence case where self-defense was an issue: the judge would determine whether the evidence of self defense was admissible and whether it rises to the level which would allow him or her to give the jury an instruction on self defense. The judge makes no decision on whether the evidence is believable or not… just that it is sufficient for a jury to consider the defense without completely guessing.
The jury would determine whether the evidence of self defense is believable and whether the state has dis-proven the theory of self defense beyond a reasonable doubt.
Jurors are the exclusive judges of the credibility of witness and decide whether the prosecution has met their burden. The jury obviously doesn’t rule on objections (because again, it’s the judge that decides the law).
A person’s right to a jury trial is guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution in both civil and criminal cases and is a cornerstone of our legal system.
*Jeremy Rosenthal is Board Certified in Criminal Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization and licensed by the Supreme Court of Texas. Nothing in this article is intended to be legal advice. For specific legal advice, you should directly consult an attorney.