Now that you have reached the age when you are old enough to serve on a jury, or if you are new at it, you may one day find in your mail box a summons to serve on a jury. This means that you will have an important role in the judicial system.
When the day arrives, you will enter the courtroom where you will see other prospective jurors. This means that not all the people in this room will be jurors. There are certain requirements before a prospective juror can serve on a jury.
One requirement is that a prospective juror has to take an oath that he/she will answer all questions truthfully about their qualifications to serve as trial jurors.
After this procedure, the court clerk will call the 12 or more jurors to take seats in the jury box. This is when the judge will speak to the jurors telling them the names of all litigants and their counsel and the subject of the particular case.
Following this, the judge and the lawyers will question the jurors to make certain that they are free of bias, prejudice or anything that may get in the way that might interfere with the ability to be fair. Let’s say that a potential juror “comes off” as being prejudiced against blacks or gays, then this person will not be chosen to serve on the jury. The process of questioning and excusing potential jurors continue until 12 people are accepted as actual jurors.
This is the time when the judge will tell the newly selected jurors that it is their duty not to speak with other jurors or anyone else about the trial until the case has been settled.
Now the trial has begun. The lawyer for the plaintiff in a civil case, or the prosecutor in a criminal case, may make an opening statement telling the jury what they expect the evidence to show. The statements of the lawyers are not evidence. The purpose is to give the jurors a general awareness of the case.
The defendant’s lawyer, who is defending his/her client, tells the jurors what took place, the points of conflict and the issues that are to be decided by the jurors.
After the lawyer for the plaintiff and the lawyer for the defendant has presented their case, the jurors are led into the deliberation room. Here is where one juror will be selected as a foreperson. The foreperson’s job is to see that the meeting is carried out in an orderly fashion. This is where there will be a discussion about the case. When you become a juror, you will find out that these discussions can lead to differences in opinions as to whether the defendant is guilty or not. This is the time when a juror has to be open minded and not distracted by the other jurists opinions.
In a civil case, the judge will instruct the jurors as to the number of jurors who must agree in order to reach a verdict. In a criminal case, there has to be an unanimous agreement of all twelve jurors.
Source: A pamphlet, “Now That you are a Juror.”
My own experiences as a juror