The Answer Book for Jury Service

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PART 1: GENERAL INFORMATION

PART II: SELECTING JURIES FOR TRIALS

PART III: THE TRIAL

PART IV: DECIDING ON A VERDICT

PART V: GLOSSARY

GENERAL INFORMATION FOR INDIVIDUALS WITH DISABILITIES

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Message from the Chief Justice

You have been requested to serve on a jury. Service on a jury is one of the most important responsibilities that you will exercise as a citizen of this Commonwealth. It is your responsibility to listen to the evidence presented at a trial, decide the facts, apply the facts to the law as instructed by the judge, and render a fair and impartial verdict. The trial could involve a dispute, essentially private in nature, between two or more parties. The dispute may be related to property rights, claims for damages, or matters that involve money. These types of disputes are resolved in civil cases.

Sometimes, the Commonwealth, a city, or a country will accuse someone of having committed a crime. These accusations are resolved in a criminal case. In a criminal case, you will be asked to consider the evidence presented, decide the facts, and render a fair and impartial verdict based upon the facts and the law.

As a juror, you will perform a very important duty that each citizen owes to our Commonwealth. Your participation is critical because the right to trial by a jury is a right guaranteed by the federal and state constitutions. Your participation as a juror is necessary to ensure that every citizen in this Commonwealth will have access to this fundamental right. The number of cases filed in Virginia's courts continues to increase each year. Therefore, your service as a juror is more important than ever.

You do not need any special skills, knowledge, or education to be a juror. However, you must be fair, impartial, willing to listen, and willing to keep an open mind. I hope that your service as a juror will be rewarding and satisfying. Remember, our democracy will not work and our system of justice cannot function, unless citizens like you are willing to serve as jurors. I thank you very much for your help.

Sincerely,

Leroy Rountree Hassell, Sr.
Chief Justice
Supreme Court of Virginia

PART 1: GENERAL INFORMATION     

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How was I chosen for jury service?

Do I have to respond to the summons to jury service?


What if I can't perform jury service right now?


What about my job?


Will I be reimbursed for serving on a jury?


How long will I be in jury service?


What if an unexpected emergency keeps me from coming to the courthouse while I'm on a jury?


How will I know what to expect and what to do during my jury service?


What hours will I serve?


I have heard that sometimes jurors are not allowed to go home until after the trial is over. Will this happen to me?

PART 1: GENERAL INFORMATION

How was I chosen for jury service?

Potential jurors are selected randomly by the jury commissioners using lists designated by the court, such as the voter registration list and the driver's license list. In some courts, this is done by hand, and in others, it is done by computer. Either way, the selection method is designed to produce a cross section of the community. Men and women over 18 years of age and from all walks of life have an equal opportunity to be called for jury service.

Do I have to respond to the summons to jury service?

Yes. The summons to jury service is an official court summons. If you do not respond, you could be held in contempt of court!

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What if I can't perform jury service right now?

Your term of jury service might disturb your regular pattern of work and other activities. If this disruption causes you genuine hardship, not just inconvenience, it may be possible for you to defer your service to another time. However, this is done only in cases of genuine hardship or need. The judge decides whether your jury service can be deferred. If you feel that you can't perform your jury service at this time, call the number listed on your summons to discuss your situation.

You won't be excused because jury service is inconvenient or because you have a busy schedule, but you may be for reasons such as a physical ailment. If you have special conflicts on particular days during the term, the court may excuse you on those days.

What about my job?

Your employer can't fire, demote, or otherwise penalize you for missing work while performing jury service. If you have been summoned and appear for jury duty for 4 or more hours in on day, including travel time, your employer may not require you to start any work shift that begins on or after 5:00 p.m.on the day you appeared for jury duty, or to start any work shift that begins before 3:00 a.m. on the day following the day you appeared for jury duty. Many employers will continue to pay your salary while you are in jury service. Contact your employer to find out what the policy is at your job.

Will I be reimbursed for serving on a jury?

You will be reimbursed $30 per day for attendance for each day you must report to the courthouse. This amount is set by the state legislature.

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How long will I be in jury service?

Jurors serve for one term of court. Depending on where you live, your term may be up to four months. Your summons will indicate the length and exact dates of the term you will serve.

What if an unexpected emergency keeps me from coming to the courthouse while I'm on a jury?

It is very important that all jurors report each day they are told to report and that they be on time. Your absence may delay a trial. If you have an emergency (such as a sudden illness or a death in the family), call the court immediately.

How will I know what to expect and what to do during my jury service?

In addition to the information in this answer book, most courts provide an orientation program for jurors to inform and educate them about jury service and the trial process. The orientation will inform you of the procedures for checking in on the days you must report to the courthouse, how you find out when to report, what the court's hours are, and what to do if you have an emergency during jury service. Additionally, you will learn about your role as a juror and what you should and should not do while in the courthouse or serving on a jury.

What hours will I serve?

You should report to the court at the date and time shown on your jury summons. At that time, you will be told the procedure for reporting to the court for the rest of the term and the court's normal business hours. On days that you report for jury service, you can expect to be at the court during its normal hours. If not selected for a jury, you may be able to leave early. Jurors will be given a lunch break and may be given other breaks during a trial. On occasion, a trial will continue beyond the court's normal working hours. If this happens, you may need to arrange your schedule to allow you to stay longer.

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I have heard that sometimes jurors are not allowed to go home until after the trial is over. Will this happen to me?

Usually, jurors go home at the end of the day and return the next morning. However, in extremely rare cases, a jury will be "sequestered" during the trial or during the jury's deliberations. Sequestered means that instead of going home at the end of the day, jurors stay in hotels, where their access to other people and to radio and television news or newspapers is limited. This is usually to keep them from accidentally hearing something about the trial that wasn't told in court

or from being influenced by news reports. This is important because juries must reach their decisions based only on what they've heard during the trial. In almost all Virginia jury trials, however, the jury goes home at the end of each day and is simply told not to discuss the case with anyone nor to watch, read, or listen to news reports about the case. It is essential that you follow these instructions.

"Jurors play an essential role in the trial of civil and criminal cases. Although many people do not know what to expect from jury service, most look back upon it as a rewarding experience. Jury service is a tangible, challenging, and indispensable contribution to our country."

 

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