The judges and court staff ofSuperior Court of California, County of Glenn thank each one of you for fulfilling your civic obligations. As a Trial Juror, you will have rendered one of the most important functions of citizenship-service as a trial juror. The right to a trial by jury, which is guaranteed by both the United States and California Constitutions, is the privilege of every citizen in the United States. Jurors are essential to the administration of justice. Jury trials cannot be held unless people like you are willing to perform their civic duty. The court sincerely appreciates your commitment!
You and others called for jury duty will be taken into the courtroom. Names will be randomly called to take a seat in the jury box. Those not called will remain in the courtroom. The judge will state the names of the parties in the case and the names of the lawyers who will represent them. The judge will also tell you what the lawsuit is about.
Next, the judge and the attorneys will question each of the people in the jury box to find out if you can be fair and impartial in this particular case.
One of the attorneys may challenge you for cause. This means the attorney will ask the judge to excuse you from the jury for a specific legal reason. Each lawyer has an unlimited number of challenges for cause.
Each attorney has the right to a certain number of peremptory challenges. That is, the attorney may ask that you be excused without giving any reason at all. If this happens, dont take it personally; the lawyer is merely exercising a right given by law.
After the required number of jurors has been chosen, the jury panel is sworn to try the case.
The attorneys will make an opening statement to the jurors and then the presentation of evidence will be given. After all the evidence is given, the attorneys will make a closing statement. The judge will then instruct the jurors regarding their duties as a juror.
In the jury deliberation room, one person will be selected as the foreperson. He or she will lead the discussion and encourage everyone to join in. Dont be afraid to speak up during these deliberations. The whole idea of a jury is to come to a decision after full and frank discussion based on calm, unbiased reasoning.
When you have reached a verdict the foreperson will record your verdict on an official form. The bailiff will tell the judge you are ready and you will return to the jury box. The judge will ask if you reached a verdict. The foreperson will answer, handing the written verdict to the bailiff who in turn will hand it to the judge. The clerk will read the verdict aloud. Sometimes one of the parties will ask that the jury be polled. This means that the clerk will ask each juror if this is his or her own verdict. The jury service will then be complete.
Although we attempt to make jury service as convenient and efficient as possible, jurors should be advised that there will be times you will spend waiting. You may wish to bring something to occupy your time.
Q: How did my name get selected for jury duty?
Q: How long will my name be on the prospective jurors list?
Q: Will I receive compensation for appearing as a juror?
Q: What if I wish to be deferred due to a hardship?
Q: Does the court have any assistive listening devices if I have a hard time hearing?
Q: I just realized I did not return the paperwork within 5 days. Am I going to be fined?
Q: A Summons/Juror Questionnaire was sent to my old address. I don't live there anymore. What should I do?
Q: What happens if I can't report on that day because I have been called for a doctors appointment?
Q: I am not a Citizen of the United States. Why did I receive a Jury Summons?
Q: What time are the jurors supposed to report?
Q: Is there a maximum age limit?
California juries have been providing outstanding service and have set a high standard. The state of California and your trial judge thank you and all jurors for giving generously of your time and for taking jury duty seriously.
Step 1: Selection of a Jury
When a jury trial is about to begin, the trial court judge requests a panel of prospective jurors to be sent to the courtroom from the jury assembly room so that the jury selection process can begin. After reporting to a courtroom, the prospective jurors are first required to swear that they will truthfully answer all questions asked about their qualifications to serve as jurors in the case.
The perjury admonishment, which basically requires potential jurors to tell the truth when answering the questions, is read as follows:
The court clerk calls 12 or more jurors to take seats in the jury box. The judge speaks to the jurors, telling them the names of the people involved in the case and their attorneys and stating what the case is about. The judge and the attorneys ask jurors questions to determine if the jurors are free of bias (prejudice) or whether there is any reason why any of them cannot be fair and impartial; this process is called voir dire. It is important to ask questions if you do not understand a question. Also, each juror is obligated to follow the law as explained by the judge; if you cannot follow the law, you need to let the judge know.
The law lets the judge and the lawyers excuse individual jurors from service in a particular case for various reasons. If a lawyer wants to have a juror excused, he or she must use a "challenge" to excuse the juror. Challenges can be for cause or peremptory. There are two types of juror challenges: a challenge for cause and a peremptory challenge. The process of questioning and excusing jurors continues until 12 persons are accepted as jurors for the trial. Alternate jurors may also be selected. The judge and attorneys agree that these jurors are qualified to decide impartially and intelligently the factual issues in the case. When the selection of the jury is completed, the jurors take the following oath:
As a juror you should think seriously about the oath before taking it. The oath means you give your word to reach your verdict upon only the evidence presented in the trial and the court's instructions about the law. You cannot consider any other evidence or instruction other than those given by the court in the case before you. Remember that your role as a juror is as important as the judge's in making sure that justice is done.
Step 2: The Trial
Jurors' duties during the trial:
Do not talk to others about the case. This responsibility requires that you not talk at all with the lawyers, witnesses, or anyone else connected with the case. The lawyers understand this rule. You will find that, even at the risk of seeming rude or unfriendly, the lawyers must avoid even casual conversation with you. In order to prevent even the appearance of improper conversation, a wise policy for you to follow is to avoid any contact with the lawyers or the parties. You also cannot talk to anybody about the case. There are important reasons for this: all cases must be decided only on the evidence presented in the courtroom. If you were to discuss the facts of the case or your impressions of it with your family, friends, or with any other person, you might hear their ideas and might be influenced by people who do not know all the facts. If you believe that someone has tried to speak to you about the case, you must report what happened to the judge by contacting the bailiff immediately.
Do not make up your mind before hearing all the evidence. It is also your duty not to form or express an opinion about the case to anyone. This means that you keep an open mind until you have heard the evidence from all sides and the case is given to the jury for deliberation. Only then may you discuss it with your fellow jurors and even then only when all jurors are present.
Do not conduct your own investigation of the case. It would also be a violation of your duty as a juror to conduct any investigation of the case. As a juror you must not become an amateur detective. For example, you must not visit the scene of an accident, an alleged crime, or any event or transaction involved in the case. You should not conduct experiments or consult any other person or reference works for additional information. If the judge feels that an inspection of a place is necessary or will be helpful, he or she will arrange and supervise an inspection by the whole jury. If you have a question about the evidence, let the judge know by handing a note to the bailiff and he or she will make a decision about your question.
Attorneys' opening statements: As the trial begins, the lawyer for the plaintiff in a civil case or the prosecutor in a criminal case may make an opening statement telling you what they expect the evidence to show. The defendant's lawyer may also choose to give an opening statement after the plaintiff's attorney or prosecutor, telling you what the defense expects the evidence to show. The lawyers' statements are not evidence. Their purpose is to give you the framework of the case, the points of conflict, and the issues of the case that you will need to decide. Be careful that you do not let any of the information presented in the opening statements become evidence in your mind. Remember that the lawyers' statements are only their versions of what happened, not evidence.
Presentation of evidence: Evidence may be presented by the attorneys in the form of a written document or an object (a gun, another weapon, a photograph, an x-ray, or some other physical thing). These are called exhibits. Evidence may also include the testimony of witnesses under oath in the courtroom.
Attorneys' closing statements: After all the evidence has been reviewed in court, lawyers for each side may present their final summary of the case, sometimes referred to as an argument. The lawyers can talk about reasons and make conclusions, but these are not evidence; they are efforts to persuade you. You should listen to these statements carefully and consider them thoughtfully, but you must form your own opinion about the outcome of the case based upon all evidence presented.
Judge's Instructions on the Law: Either before or after the closing arguments by the lawyers, the judge will explain the law that applies to the case to you. This is the judge's instruction to the jury. You have to apply that law to the facts, as you have heard them, in arriving at your verdict. You must consider all of the instructions and give them equal consideration. Keep in mind that you must follow the law as the judge states it to you. If the judge gives you an instruction that seems different from what you read here or another instruction given at another trial, you must accept the instruction given by the judge of the case you are deciding as correct and be guided by the judge's statement only. Be sure to ask questions if you don't understand.
When considering the evidence, an important difference exists between civil and criminal cases in the degree of proof required to sustain an accusation. In a criminal case, the defendant, in order to be convicted, must be proved guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. In a civil case, a party suing another has to prove that charge by a preponderance of the evidence. In every trial, the judge carefully explains the degree of proof required to reach a verdict. You should pay careful attention to the instructions on the degree of proof.
Step 3: Deliberations by the Jury
After closing statements by the attorneys and the judge's instructions on the law, the bailiff or court attendant will take you to the jury room for deliberations. Your first duty when entering the jury room is to select a foreperson. The jury should carefully select a well-qualified foreperson. The foreperson's duty is to see that discussion happens in a free and orderly manner, that the issues you must decide are fully and freely discussed, and that every juror is given an opportunity to participate.
After you enter the jury room for deliberations, the exhibits that you are to consider are given to you. If you are not given written instruction from the judge on the law, you may request them. If you feel you need further instructions or to have certain testimony read back to you, inform the judge through the bailiff or the court attendant. Since these purposes can be accomplished only by returning everyone (including parties and lawyers) to the courtroom, you should not make these requests lightly. The procedure usually takes time, but this delay is understandable if you seriously believe doing so is necessary or helpful to you in reaching a verdict. There is a booklet, "Behind Closed Doors" that can assist jurors with the format of their deliberation. It is published by the American Judicature Society, which can be contacted at http://www.ajs.org.
Quite often in the jury room the jurors may argue and have a difference of opinion. When this occurs, each juror should try to express his or her opinion and the reasoning supporting it. It would be wrong for a juror to refuse to listen to the arguments and opinions of the others or to deny another juror the right to express an opinion. Remember that jurors are not advocates, but impartial judges of the facts. By carefully considering each juror's opinion and the reasons behind it, it is usually possible for the jurors to reach a verdict. A juror should not hesitate to change his or her mind when there is a good reason. But each juror should maintain his or her position unless conscientiously persuaded to change that opinion by the other jurors. Following a full and free discussion with fellow jurors, each juror should vote only according to his or her own honest convictions.
In your efforts to reach a verdict, keep in mind that you should consider only the evidence that was presented in the courtroom. You should not guess or speculate about things not discussed in court, but you can draw reasonable conclusions from the evidence presented.
It is important to take the case you are deciding seriously. After all, if you were a party in the case, it would be important to you, and you would want the jury to give it serious consideration even if the controversy appears less significant to others.
All jurors should deliberate and vote on each issue to be decided in the case. When it is time to count votes, it is the foreperson's duty to see that this is done properly. In a civil case, the judge will tell you how many jurors must agree in order to reach a verdict. In a criminal case, the unanimous agreement of all 12 jurors is required. If the required number of jurors agree on each issue to be decided, the foreperson will sign and date the verdict, advise the bailiff or court attendant, and return with the signed verdict and any unsigned verdict forms from prior votes to the courtroom.
If a jury cannot arrive at a verdict within a reasonable time and indicates to the judge that there is no possibility that they can reach a verdict, the judge, in his or her discretion, may dismiss the jury. This situation is a mistrial, sometimes referred to as a "hung jury," and may mean the case goes to trial again with a new jury.