When there are multiple defendants for a single crime, the District Attorney or Prosecuting Attorney can combine the charge under one case. Meaning, all defendants in the criminal case will be tried at the same time in front of one jury and one judge.
Motion to Sever
A motion to sever is a request by either the State or the defendant asking the court to have separate jury trials on the different charges. A motion to sever can also ask the court to sever the trials of co-defendants, resulting in the defendants being tried separately rather than together. In most cases, the defendant requests a motion to sever so that the jury does not hear all the evidence related to all the charges in the same trial. The court will grant the motion to sever if it appears that any party may be prejudiced by offenses or defendants being tried together.
Motion to Sever Offenses
The prosecution and the defense have a right to sever two or more charges when the offenses are unrelated to each other but have been joined together for a trial. When dealing with offenses that are related, the court will grant severance of those charges, if it is believed that the evidence of each offense could potentially prejudice the jury, and severance is then necessary to achieve a fair determination of the defendant’s innocence or guilt. The court will determine the complexity of the evidence and make their judgement based on whether or not they believe the trier of fact is able to distinguish the evidence and apply the law intelligently to each offense.
Motion to Sever Defendants
Similar to a severance of offenses, the State or the defense can request separate trials for co-defendants if it is believed that the defendants being tried together could prevent the fair determination of guilt or innocence for either defendant.