Juror Duties: In the Courtroom
As a juror, you, along with the other jurors, solely decide the facts in the case you hear. The Judge decides the questions of law, such as what may be admitted as evidence, the questions that may be asked, and which witnesses may appear. Your responsibility is to listen to all of the evidence with an open mind. Do not form any opinion about the case until you have heard all the evidence.
Juror Duties: Outside Court
As a juror you must not discuss the case amongst yourselves or with anyone else until you begin deliberations. This rule applies while you are at court, during breaks, and even at home. You must not discuss the case with friends, relatives or trial participants. Once your jury service is concluded, you may freely discuss the case with anyone you choose.
As a prospective juror, you will be questioned by the Judge and trial attorneys. The voir dire process is conducted to determine whether you have opinions or attitudes that would bias you in favor or disfavor of either side in a case. While some questions may be personal in nature, they are not intended to embarrass you. They are asked to determine if there is a reason you should not sit on the case. If you feel that a particular question is too personal, you may ask the Judge to hear your answer in chambers out of the presence of the other jurors.
Jurors may be excused “for cause” which are reasons such as a personal or financial interest in the outcome of the case, a family relationship to a party or counsel, or any other reason that would impair one’s ability to be fair and impartial. “Peremptory challenges” may be made without any reason. Please understand that the Judge must excuse those persons who are challenged. If you are removed as a potential juror for any reason, you still may be able to serve on other juries. Your removal is not a reflection upon your honesty or ability. The goal is simply to seat persons who can be fair and impartial in a particular case.
Useful Court Terms and Procedures
Opening Statement: Overview of what evidence will be presented and framing of the party’s side of the story. This is not evidence.
Direct Examination: Questions attorneys ask of a witness.
Cross Examination: After a witness testifies on direct examination, the opposing party has a right of cross examination. This is permitted to “test” the witness’s direct testimony.
Final Arguments: Summary of the evidence. This is not evidence.
Objections: Claims made by attorneys that the evidence is not admissible for some legal reason. The Judge may sustain an objection, meaning that the objection is correct and the question or evidence is not proper. The Judge may also overrule the objection, meaning the objection is not proper; therefore, the evidence is admitted for the jury’s consideration.
Motion to Strike: Sometimes evidence comes in which is not legally proper. When the Judge grants a motion to strike, you must disregard the evidence or testimony.
Side Bar Conference: Sometimes the parties gather near the Judge’s bench to discuss legal and/or procedural matters outside the presence of jurors to avoid possible prejudice.
Question of Law: An issue to be decided by the Judge. These may concern procedural matters such as, evidence that may be admitted, questions that may be asked, and which witnesses may appear. They may also involve questions of substantive law which create, define, and regulate the rights of parties.
Questions of Fact: Is a factual dispute between litigants that must be resolved by the jury at trial. Quite simply, it is deciding what actually took place between the parties.
Jury Instructions: Set of instructions that explain what the laws are that govern a particular case. The jurors must accept and follow the law as instructed by the Judge.
Deliberation: The phase in a trial in which the jury meets in private to discuss the evidence presented in court and decide whether the defendant is guilty.
Verdict: A decision by a jury as to whether someone is guilty after having heard the facts at a trial.