Many other events can occur prior to trial. Depending on the nature of the case, there may be pre-trial hearings on Constitutional issues (confessions, searches, identification, etc.). The issues are presented to the Court through written "motions" (e.g., Motion to Suppress Evidence, etc.). The judge must determine whether evidence will be admitted or suppressed at the defendant's trial, whether there is some legal reason why the defendant should not be tried, or decide other ground rules for trial. If the defendant has counsel at this time discovery with information on the case will be made available to the defendant's attorney. The Val Verde County Attorney’s office has an open file policy. All written and recorded material is available during regular business hours for viewing and/or inspection.
A trial is an adversary proceeding in which the County Attorney must present evidence to prove the defendant's guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. The defendant is not required to prove his or her innocence or to present any evidence.
Both the defendant and the County Attorney (representing the State of Texas) have the right to a trial by a jury. Sometimes, both sides agree to let a Judge listen to the evidence and decide the case without a jury; this is called a "bench trial". In a jury trial, the jury is the "Trier of fact"; in a bench trial, the judge is. After the evidence is presented, the judge or a jury will determine whether the evidence proved that the defendant committed the crime.
In Texas a criminal trial is a "bifurcated" trial. The first phase of the trial is called the guilt/innocence phase of the trial. After the presentation of this phase the jury, or the Judge if it is a bench trial, will only determine whether the defendant is innocent or guilty of the offense(s) alleged in the information. If the defendant is found innocent that is the end of the trial. If the defendant is found to be guilty then the next phase of the trial will be held. This phase of the trail is called the punishment phase. The defendant can elect to have his punishment assessed by the jury or by the Judge.