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Pretrial Procedures in Criminal Cases


At least one week before a criminal trial, the parties will be scheduled to appear for a pretrial conference. The Defendant(s) must be present for the conference unless his presence is waived at a prior court proceeding.

I.  Final Pretrial Submissions

The following should be filed five business days before the conference, unless otherwise indicated:

1. Agreed Statement of the Case.

The Court will read this statement to the jury during voir dire.

2. Witness Lists.

Separate lists for each side, noting witnesses who will be called to testify and witnesses who may be called to testify

For each witness, provide a concise (2 or 3 sentences maximum) description of the witness’s role in the case.

The Court will read the names of witnesses on these lists during jury selection.

3. Exhibit Lists.

A list, by each side, of all exhibits the party will definitely use at trial (including demonstratives, summaries or other specially prepared exhibits), which includes the following:

a.         the exhibit number for each document;

b.         the date of the document;

c.         a brief description of the document and a concise statement of the exhibit’s relevance;

d.         whether there is an objection to admission of the document and, if so, a concise statement of the basis for the objection

                  (e.g., Rule    403—undue prejudice or confusion; Rule 802—hearsay); and

e.         a concise statement of the asserted basis of admissibility, if there is an objection.

At least one week before the pretrial conference, the parties must provide the court with three sets of exhibit binders containing copies of the objected-to representative exhibits.  After the pretrial conference and rulings on exhibits, three binders of the final exhibits will be required to be given to the Court no later than the day before trial. Each binder should also include a summary checklist page for the Court to track admission of exhibits during trial.

Note: There is no need to list every conceivable exhibit that can possibly be used. The parties should submit a list of trial exhibits they definitely intend to introduce. Exhibits not likely to be used need not be listed. If, due to unforeseen circumstances during trial a party wishes to introduce an exhibit not previously listed, notice should be given as soon as possible to the opposing side and to the Court so that any objections can be discussed. Absent abuse of this process, an exhibit will not be deemed inadmissible simply because it was not included on the original exhibit list, provided the exhibit/document was earlier produced to the opposing side during discovery.

4. Motions in Limine.

The parties are directed to meet and confer on all motions in limine before filing them and determine which motions, if any, are unopposed and do not need to be filed.

Unless otherwise ordered, all motions in limine must be filed three weeks before the final pre-trial conference. Responses are due one week before the the final pre-trial conference. No replies should be filed.  Parties filing multiple motions in limine should submit their initial motions and the supporting exhibits in one document for the Court. Responses should also be submitted in one document.

5. Voir Dire Questions.

To the extent possible, the Court prefers that most questions asked of potential jurors be included in a written questionnaire (of no more than two pages) as it encourages reflection and candor. Sample questions are provided below in section II.1 addressing jury selection procedures. To propose questions that should be included in the written questionnaire distributed to the venire, as well as questions the Court should ask orally, the parties must file a joint document that includes both: (1) joint questions in the form of a questionnaire; (2) a list of questions to be asked orally; and (3) proposed questions to which one party objects, and a short basis for the objection.

6. Jury Instructions.

The parties are instructed to meet and attempt to agree on jury instructions and to file proposed instructions before the final pre-trial conference. The Court uses the 7th Circuit Pattern Jury Instructions where applicable, bearing in mind that statutory and binding case law govern over the pattern instructions.

See Pattern Criminal Jury Instructions

If the parties wish to modify a 7th Circuit Pattern Jury Instruction, the party proposing the modification must submit a redline to the Court showing the modification to the pattern instruction. The parties should concentrate their efforts on the substantive jury instructions related to the merits.

Each proposed instruction must indicate the proponent of the instruction and whether the instruction is agreed or disputed. The bottom of each instruction must identify the legal authority supporting the instruction. If an instruction is disputed, the grounds for the objection (and any proposed modification or alternate instruction) must be concisely stated on the same page immediately following the disputed instruction. The party proposing the instruction may then state concisely the reasons supporting the instruction as proposed.

7. Evidence Projection Systems.

Judge Alonso’s courtroom (1219) is equipped with a digital evidence projection system. The Court expects trial counsel to use this system. As early as possible prior to trial (not less than four weeks), counsel should contact Alexander Zeier, the Courtroom Technology Administrator, to schedule a training session. Mr. Zeier can be reached at (312) 435-6045.

II.  Additional Pretrial Information

(1) Instructions for Trial Counsel: Please Read Carefully

Your compliance with the following requests will be greatly appreciated:

(i) Please be on time for each court session. Trial engagements take precedence over any other business. If you have matters in other courtrooms, arrange in advance to have them continued or have a colleague handle them for you.

(ii) Court time may not be used for marking exhibits. This must be done in advance of the court session.

(iii) Please stand whenever you address the court. This includes the making of objections.

(iv) Please speak into the microphone whenever speaking on the record in court. A portable microphone is available is counsel wishes to move away from the stationary microphones.

(v) In your opening statement to the jury, do not argue the case.

(vi) Please stand when you question witnesses. (Counsel with physical disabilities will be excused from this requirement.)

(vii) On direct examination, if you intend to question a witness about a group of documents, avoid delay by having all the documents given to the witness when you start the examination.

(viii) When you object in the presence of the jury, make your objection short and to the point. Do not argue the objection in the presence of the jury, and do not argue with the ruling of the court in the presence of the jury. Such matters may be raised at the first recess and will not be waived by waiting until the recess.

(ix) Do not ask the court in the presence of the jury to declare that a witness is qualified as an expert or qualified to express an expert opinion.

(x) Counsel are not permitted to contact jurors after trial without permission of the Court.

Thank you in advance for your cooperation.

(2) Final Pretrial Conference Topics

The following is a list of topics Judge Alonso will address during the final pre-trial conference. Counsel need only be prepared to discuss the topics that are also referenced in the final pretrial order. The remaining topics in the list below reference particular practices Judge Alonso will explain during the final pre-trial conference.

1.         voir dire

2.         written juror questionnaire

3.         jury lists – alphabetical and random agreed

4.         statement of case – short enough to fit on letter to jurors

5.         motions in limine – agreed matters and preparation of order on rulings

6.         exhibits: (i) pre-mark all; (ii) stipulate to as many as possible; (iii) seek admission outside jury’s presence; (iv) must be admitted before displayed on screen

7.         demonstratives and visual aids.

8.         trial day

9.         elevators

10.       sidebars

11.       trial technology – make sure to test it outside the presence of the jury

12.       preliminary instructions before opening

13.       instructions before closing (can project on screen)

14.       note pads

15.       can always approach witness without permission

16.       no speaking objections, unless requested 

17.       talking to jury after verdict

Note: The court does not control nor can it guarantee the accuracy, relevance, timeliness, or completeness of this information. Neither is it intended to endorse any view expressed nor reflect its importance by inclusion in this site.