PART II: SELECTING JURIES FOR TRIALS

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Is it possible that I might report for jury service but not sit on a jury?

How are jurors chosen to sit on a jury in a civil case?


Why are some jurors removed from the list?


How are juries chosen in a criminal case?


What are alternate jurors?

Is it possible that I might report for jury service but not sit on a jury?

Yes. The parties involved in a case generally seek to settle their differences and avoid the expense and time of a trial. Sometimes the case is settled just a few moments before the trial begins. So even though several trials are scheduled for a certain day, the court doesn't know until that morning how many will actually go to trial. But your time spent waiting is not wasted--your very presence in the court encourages settlement.

How are jurors chosen to sit on a jury in a civil case?

When a trial is ready to begin, the bailiff calls potential jurors into the courtroom. If damages of $15,000 or less are claimed in the case, at least 11 jurors will be called and if damages of more than $15,000 are claimed, 13 jurors will be called. The clerk or bailiff asks the potential jurors to stand, hold up their right hands, and swear or affirm that they will truthfully answer the questions about to be asked of them. If you are called as a potential juror, the judge will then tell you the names of the parties and their attorneys and briefly explain the nature of the case. The judge will ask if you are related to anyone involved in the case, have any financial or other interest in the outcome of the case, have formed or expressed an opinion, or have any personal bias or prejudice that might affect how you decide the case. If you don't think you can make a fair and impartial decision for any reason, you should tell the judge at this time.

The attorneys for each side might also ask you some questions. If the judge concludes that you may not be able to make a fair decision, you will be asked to step down, and another prospective juror will be brought in to replace you. After the judge decides that all potential jurors are qualified to fairly and impartially hear the case, the clerk will compile a list of the jurors and give it to the attorneys. Each side will remove 3 names from the list. They do not have to give reasons for removing these names. If the amount claimed is $15,000 or less, the final jury will have 5 members. If it is more than $10,000, the jury will have 7 members. The remaining jurors then swear that they will hear the case and give a verdict they believe to be true. The trial is ready to begin.

"Trials begin with jury selection. Names are randomly selected from those on jury service to form a panel from which the trial jury will be selected. The judge excuses those on the panel whose knowledge of the people or circumstances would affect their impartiality."

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Why are some jurors removed from the list?

Allowing both sides to participate in selecting the jury gives the parties the opportunity to feel that the jury will be fair and impartial when it decides the case. Being excused from a jury in no way reflects on your character or your competence as a juror, so you should not feel offended or embarrassed if your name is removed.

How are juries chosen in a criminal case?

The procedure for criminal cases is very similar to the procedure for civil cases. However, at least 20 prospective jurors are called for a felony trial, and the final jury will have 12 members. For a misdemeanor case, at least 13 jurors are called, and the final jury will have 7 members. (The difference between a felony and a misdemeanor case is described in the next section.)

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What are alternate jurors?

Sometimes, when the judge believes that a case is likely to last for more than a day or two, additional jurors will be chosen from those summoned for jury duty questioned, and challenged like other prospective jurors. The additional jurors are chosen to avoid having to retry the case should one or more jurors be excused from the jury during the trial for an emergency (such as illness), leaving too few jurors to decide the case. Throughout the trial, all jurors will sit together, paying careful attention to all the evidence. After closing argument, and before the jury retires to the jury room to decide the case, the judge will excuse from further jury duty enough jurors to reduce the number of jurors to the statutory number needed to decide the case.

"Trial by jury - being judged by our neighbors - is at the very heart of American justice. For the American citizen there is no finer contribution to our democratic society than serving as a juror."

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PART III: THE TRIAL

What are my responsibilities now that I'm part of a jury?

What is a "question of law?"

What is a "question of fact?"


Who else will be in the courtroom and What will they be doing?

Sequence of a Trial

What happens during a civil trial?

What are jury instructions?


Who awards damages in a civil case?


How are criminal cases tried?


What are the two types of criminal cases?


Who sets the punishment in criminal cases?


Why do the attorneys object to certain statements or evidence?


Why is the jury sometimes asked to leave the courtroom in the middle of a trial?


What should I do when testimony is stricken from the record?


Can I talk to anyone about the trial while it's going on?


Can I watch news reports of the trial or read newspaper accounts of it?


What if I accidentally hear something about the trial outside the courtroom, or if someone contacts me about the trial while it is still going on, or if I realize during the trial that I have some special information that relates to the case?


What if I need a break during the trial?

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PART III: THE TRIAL

What are my responsibilities now that I'm part of a jury?

In any trial, two kinds of questions will have to be decided at various times. These are questions of law and questions of fact. The judge decides the questions of law. You decide the questions of fact. After you have decided the questions of fact, you will apply the law to the facts as directed by the judge at the end of the trial.

What is a "question of law?"

Questions of law involve the determination of what the law is. They may be about procedural matters (what information can be admitted as evidence, what kind of questions can be asked, which witnesses can appear, and what they can testify about), or they may involve questions of substantive law, which create, define, and regulate the rights of parties.

What is a "question of fact?"

Quite simply, it's deciding what really happened in a case. Don't be surprised if the evidence given by both sides is conflicting or if the testimony given by one witness contradicts another. After all, if everyone was in agreement about what happened and what should be done about it, the dispute probably wouldn't be in court, and a jury probably wouldn't be needed. Your job is to listen to all the testimony, consider all the evidence, and decide what you think really happened.

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Who else will be in the courtroom and What will they be doing?

A number of people will be in the courtroom besides the judge, the jury, and the attorneys. The list below explains who they are and what they'll be doing.

Plaintiff (civil case).

In a civil case, the person who brought the case to court is called the plaintiff.

 

 

Defendant (civil case).

The person being sued in a civil case is called the defendant.

 

 

Defendant (criminal case).

A person who has been charged with a crime is the defendant in a criminal case.

 

 

Attorneys or counsel.

Attorneys representing the plaintiff, defendant, or the government in a criminal case are also referred to as counsel. Depending on who they represent and what court you are in, you may hear them called counsel for the plaintiff, plaintiff's attorney, counsel for the defendant, or defense attorney.  An attorney representing the government in a criminal case is called the prosecuting or Commonwealth's attorney.

 

 

Court reporter.

The court reporter keeps the official record by recording every word spoken during the trial.

 

 

Bailiff.

The bailiff keeps order, maintains the security of the court, and helps the judge and the jury as needed.

 

 

Clerk of court.

The clerk of court, also called the clerk, maintains the court files and preserves the evidence presented during the trial. The clerk may also administer the oaths to jurors and witnesses.

 

 

Witnesses.

Each side in a trial will probably have a number of witnesses who have information about the dispute. Very often, the judge will ask them to wait outside the courtroom until it is their turn to testify. This is done so they won't hear each other's testimony and be influenced by it.

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Sequence of a Trial

I. SELECTION OF A JURY

II. OPENING STATEMENTS

    A. Plaintiff's attorney (or prosecuting/Commonwealth's attorney for a criminal case)
    B. Defendant's attorney

III. TESTIMONY OF WITNESSES AND PRESENTATION OF EVIDENCE

    A.
Plaintiff's attorney (or prosecuting/Commonwealth's attorney for a criminal case)

1.   Direct examination of plaintiff's witnesses by plaintiff's attorney
2.   Cross-examination of plaintiff's witnesses by defendant's attorney
3.  Redirect examination of plaintiff's witnesses by plaintiff's attorney

    B. Defendant's attorney

         l. Direct examination of defendant's witnesses by defendant's attorney
         2. Cross-examination of defendant's witnesses by plaintiff's attorney
         3. Redirect examination of defendant's witnesses by defendant's attorney

IV. SELECTION AND PREPARATION OF JURY INSTRUCTIONS

V. JURY INSTRUCTIONS PRESENTED TO THE JURY

VI. CLOSING ARGUMENTS

    A. Plaintiff's attorney (or prosecuting/Commonwealth's attorney for a criminal case)
    B. Defendant's attorney
    C. Plaintiff's attorney (or prosecuting/Commonwealth's attorney for a criminal case) to close
         the case

VII. JURY DELIBERATIONS

VIII. VERDICT OF JURY

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What happens during a civil trial?

After the clerk or bailiff has sworn in the jury, the case is ready to begin. If a plaintiff or defendant is pro se, that is, not represented by an attorney, then that party will perform the tasks of the attorney while representing himself or herself in the trial. Both attorneys may make opening statements explaining their client's position and outlining the evidence they expect to present that will support their claims. These statements are not evidence and should not be considered as such. The witnesses for the plaintiff are then called and questioned by the attorney for the plaintiff and cross-examined by the attorney for the defendant. After cross examination, the plaintiff's attorney may reexamine some of the witnesses. After all the plaintiff's witnesses have been called and all the plaintiff's evidence has been presented, the attorney will tell the judge that the plaintiff rests.

Witnesses for the defendant may then be called. This time, the defendant's attorney questions the witnesses, and the plaintiff's attorney cross-examines them. When all the defendant's witnesses and evidence have been presented, the defense will rest. After the defendant has finished, the plaintiff has the right to offer testimony in reply.

The judge and the attorneys will then go to the judge's chambers to consider the instructions the judge will give the jurors about the law of the case (this is discussed below). After the judge has decided on the instructions, the judge and the attorneys return to the courtroom. The judge reads the jury instructions to the jury, then the attorneys make their closing arguments. The closing arguments let each attorney tell the jury what they think the evidence proves and why their client should win. These closing arguments may help jurors recall many details of the case, but they are not evidence. The plaintiff's attorney speaks first, followed by the defendant's attorney. Finally, the plaintiff's attorney speaks again and closes the case.

What are jury instructions?

Jury instructions tell the jury what the laws are that govern a particular case. Each attorney gives the judge a set of proposed jury instructions. The judge considers each instruction and gives the ones that properly state the law that applies to the case. The jurors must accept and follow the law as instructed by the judge even though they may have a different idea about what the law is or ought to be.

Who awards damages in a civil case?

In a civil case, the jury not only decides on a verdict for one side or the other, but also awards damages. That is, if the jury determines that an award of money should be made, the jury decides how much money should be paid.

How are criminal cases tried?

Criminal cases are very similar to civil cases, except instead of a plaintiff, there is a prosecuting attorney. The prosecuting attorney may represent either the Commonwealth (the state) or a city, county, or town.

What are the two types of criminal cases?

There are two kinds of criminal offenses: felonies and misdemeanors. A felony offense is one that can be punished by death or by a prison sentence of a year or more. If the felony offense is one that can be punished by death, it is called a capital offense. If the maximum punishment allowed by law is less than one year in confinement or only a fine, the offense is called a misdemeanor.

"The jury's primary role is to determine the facts based on an evaluation of all the evidence the judge rules admissible."

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Who sets the punishment in criminal cases?

In felony or serious misdemeanor criminal cases, the jury first decides the defendant's guilt or innocence and then, in a separate proceeding, the same jury decides on the penalty. In lesser misdemeanor criminal cases, the jury sets the punishment at the same time that they decide their verdict.

Why do the attorneys object to certain statements or evidence?

An important part of an attorney's job is to protect the clients' rights during a trial. This includes making sure that the only evidence presented during the trial is evidence that is proper, relevant, and allowed by law. So if evidence is submitted that the attorney feels is improper, or if the attorney feels that the other side is asking questions that are unlawful, the attorney will call out "Objection!" By doing this, the attorney is asking the judge to rule on whether the law allows that particular piece of evidence or statement or question to be admitted. If the judge thinks it should be admitted, the judge will say, "Objection overruled." If the judge agrees that the evidence in question is improper, the judge will say, "Objection sustained." How often an attorney raises objections during the trial shouldn't bias you against that attorney's case.

Why is the jury sometimes asked to leave the courtroom in the middle of a trial?

The judge may decide to send the jury from the courtroom in the middle of a trial. While the jury is gone, the attorneys and the judge will discuss points of law or whether certain evidence can be admitted. The purpose of these discussions is to make sure that the jury hears only the evidence that is legally valid before making its decision. You will be called back to the courtroom when the judge's decision is made.

What should I do when testimony is stricken from the record?

You must disregard that testimony. Sometimes the jury hears testimony that the judge later decides they should not have heard. The judge will tell the jury to consider the case as if they had never heard it. You must follow the judge's instructions if the parties in the case are to receive a fair trial.

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Can I talk to anyone about the trial while it's going on?

No. As long as the trial is still going on, do not discuss the trial with anyone. Do not even discuss the case with your fellow jurors until you begin your deliberations. When the trial is over, you can discuss it with anyone if you want to, or you may keep silent if you prefer.

Can I watch news reports of the trial or read newspaper accounts of it?

No, not as long as the trial is still going on.

What if I accidentally hear something about the trial outside the courtroom, or if someone contacts me about the trial while it is still going on, or if I realize during the trial that I have some special information that relates to the case?

Ask the bailiff to tell the judge immediately what has happened. Tell no one about the incident except the bailiff or the judge.

What if I need a break during the trial?

Jurors are given lunch breaks and may be given other breaks during a trial. If it is absolutely necessary that you take a break for some reason at any other time during the trial, tell the bailiff or the judge. But note that these requests are highly unusual and should be made only if absolutely necessary.

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