While jury service may cause you financial loss, personal inconvenience or hardship, the opportunity to participate in our justice system should be a rewarding experience.
Upon selection, a juror becomes an integral part of the judicial system and has an important responsibility. The jury is assigned the duty of making decisions concerning questions of fact in the pending case. The trial judge rules upon questions of law. A fair and impartial trial and the rendition of a just verdict depend upon the combined efforts of the jurors as deciders of the facts, the judge as presiding officer and final authority on the law, and the lawyers as advocates.
As a juror you truly exercise the function of a judge. Your attentive, serious exercise of that power is greatly appreciated by the courts, our community, and our entire democratic society. We simply could not function without you.
Six Main Steps of a Jury Trial (Civil or Criminal)
b. Completion of jury
c. Perjury admonishment
Admonitions to jurors to refrain from discussing the case among themselves or with any other persons, or to express or form an opinion until the case is finally submitted to them.
- Opening statement by counsel (not evidence)
- Testimony of witnesses
- Closing summations by counsel (not evidence)
Instruction to jurors on the law after completion of testimony, given either before or after summation by counsel.
- Select foreperson
- Weigh evidence:
- Civil case - preponderance of evidence
- Criminal case - beyond reasonable doubt.
- Civil - three fourths of the jurors may find and return a verdict
(nine of twelve)
- Criminal - must be unanimous
- Please be prompt. Tardiness causes court delays, inconvenience and the trial can't continue when you are not present. Each juror must hear all the evidence. If you're late, the judge, lawyers, court assistants, parties, witnesses, and all the other jurors must wait for you. If you don't have a good excuse, the judge may fine you. Although there may be delays caused by any number of reasons, it is very important for jurors to be on time. Phone the court at once if you're unavoidably detained.
- You should conduct yourself as you would at any serious and important event. You should be courteous at all times. It is important that you remain alert when the court is in session. You may bring a book or magazine to read while you are waiting for court to begin or during recess, but do not read while court is in session.
- You must sit in the same seat in the jury box throughout the trial. This helps the judge, the clerk and the lawyers to identify you.
- When a court session begins, the bailiff may call upon everyone in the courtroom to rise. Like the judge's robe and the elevated bench, this is a token of respect for the seriousness and solemnity of the proceedings, rather than for the individual judge.
- Careful attention should be given to every question and answer. If you cannot hear a witness, lawyer or the judge, you should tell the judge by raising your hand.
- While you are a juror and before you retire to deliberate in the jury room, you must not talk to anyone about the case, not even another juror, nor should you permit anyone to talk to you about it. During the trial, you should not communicate with any lawyer, party or witness in the case. A friendly talk, even though not about the trial, must be avoided. You should not listen to radio or television accounts of the trial, or read articles about it in the newspapers. Do not research the case on the internet or receive or send electronic communications about the case. This includes texting, emailing, blogging, posting information on social network websites or using any other electronic communications to discuss or even mention this case. If any person persists in talking to you about the trial or attempts to influence you as a juror, you should report that fact to the judge immediately. After the verdict, you are no longer bound by this restriction, though you need not discuss the case unless you particularly desire to do so.
- In deciding a case, you are expected to use all the experience, common sense and common knowledge you possess, but you are not to rely on any private source of information.
- Only in very rare cases are members of the jury sequestered during trial and you will ordinarily be permitted to continue your normal activities when the trial is not in session.
The trial court judge will request a panel of prospective jurors to begin the jury selection process. The prospective jurors, upon reporting to a courtroom, are first required to agree that they will answer truthfully all questions that will be asked of them about their qualifications to serve as trial jurors in the pending case.
The perjury admonishment will be given as follows:
"Do you, and each of you, understand and agree that you will accurately and truthfully answer, under penalty of perjury, all questions propounded to you concerning your qualifications and competency to serve as a trial juror in the matter pending before this court, and that failure to do so may subject you to criminal prosecution?
The court clerk then will call twelve or more jurors to take seats in the jury box. The judge will then speak to the jurors, informing them of the names of all litigants and their counsel and stating the subject matter of the case. The judge and the lawyers then question the jurors for the purpose of determining whether the jurors are free of bias, prejudice, or whether there exists any matter which might interfere with their ability to act as fair and impartial jurors.
The law authorizes the judge and the lawyers to excuse individual jurors from service in a particular case for various reasons. If a lawyer wishes to have a juror excused, he or she must exercise a "challenge" as to the juror. Challenges are of two kinds:
The law sets forth a number of reasons for which a juror may be excused "for cause." For example, a juror who is related to or employed by one of the parties in the case may be excused for cause. There is no limit to the number of such challenges which may be exercised.
Parties to each side of an action are allowed a certain number of challenges for which no reason need be stated. These are called peremptory challenges. They may be exercised by each side asking the judge to excuse a particular juror. If a juror is excused, this fact does not imply a negative reflection nor does it mean the juror is not competent in any way. It frequently happens that a prospective juror will be excused in one case, or in a certain type of case, and yet be accepted in others. The number of peremptory challenges has been established by the Legislature.
Questioning and Excusing
The process of questioning and excusing jurors continues until twelve persons are accepted as jurors. Alternate jurors may also be selected. In the jurors rests the faith and confidence of the judge and the lawyers that they are qualified to decide, impartially and intelligently, the issues of fact in the case. When the selection of the jury is completed, the following agreement is obtained from the jurors:
"Do you, and each of you, understand and agree that you will well and truly try the cause now pending before this court, and a true verdict render according only to the evidence presented to you and to the instructions of the court?
The agreement you make as a juror to try the cause is not to be taken lightly nor soon forgotten. You have given your word that you will reach your verdict solely upon evidence received in trial and upon the Court's instructions as to the law. You must not consider any other evidence. You must not consider any instruction other than those given by the Court in the pending case. As a juror, your role will be equally as important as that of the judge in ensuring that justice is done.
After you have been selected as a prospective juror, the judge will admonish you that it is your duty not to speak with any other juror or person or permit any other juror or person to address you on any subject connected with the trial, until the case is finally submitted to you for deliberation. It is also your duty, until that state is reached, not to form or express an opinion on the case. The law requires the judge to repeat or to remind you of that instruction each time you leave the courtroom. Such repetition should serve to increase your understanding of its importance.
The reasons for the admonition are basic. As previously emphasized in this pamphlet, all cases must be decided solely on the evidence received in the courtroom. If you were to discuss the facts of the case or your impressions of it with a fellow juror, your family, friends, or with any other person, you would hear their ideas and thus expose your mind to influence from outside sources. Additionally, the admonition that you should neither form nor express an opinion on the case requires that you keep an open mind until you have heard the evidence from all sides and the case is finally submitted to you. Only then may you discuss it with your fellow jurors, and even then only when all jurors are present for the purpose of deliberation. Even an inadvertent violation of the instruction would be a violation of your oath as a juror. If you believe that someone purposely has tried to speak to you concerning the case, it is your duty to report the incident to the judge immediately. This responsibility prevents you from having any conversation about the case with the lawyers, witnesses, or anyone else connected with the case. The lawyers understand this rule and you will find that, even at the risk of seeming unfriendly, they will avoid even a casual conversation with you. In order to prevent even the appearance of an improper conversation, a wise policy for you to follow is to avoid any contact with these persons. Please be sure to wear your badge so you will be recognized as a juror.
By the same principle, it would 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 instance, you must not visit the scene of an accident, an alleged crime, or any event or transaction involved in the case. Neither should you 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.
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 choose to give an opening statement after the plaintiff or prosecutor rests, telling you what the defense expects the evidence to show. These statements of the lawyers are not evidence. Their purpose is to give you the framework of the case, the points of conflict, and the issues of the case to be decided by you. Be careful that you do not let any facts presented in the opening statements become evidence in your mind, for statements by the lawyers are not evidence.
You are not to consider as evidence any statement of counsel unless you are otherwise instructed by the court.
Evidence may be presented in the form of a written document, an object, such as a gun or an implement, a photograph or an x-ray or some other tangible item. They are called exhibits. Evidence may also consist of the testimony of witnesses under oath in the courtroom.
After all the evidence has been introduced, lawyers for each side may present their final summation, sometimes referred to as "argument."
The lawyers are entitled to present their views in summation with reasons and conclusions, but you are not bound by them and they are not evidence. You should listen to these summations carefully and consider them thoughtfully, but you must form your own opinion.
A juror should make no decision on any issue until all sides have been heard, the judge's instructions have been given, and the case discussed with all other jurors after having retired to the jury room for that purpose.
Either before or after the final summation by the lawyers, the judge will instruct you on the law that applies to the case. You must apply that law to the facts, as you find them, in arriving at your verdict. You must consider all of the instructions and give them equal consideration regardless of the order in which they are given. Whether some are applicable may depend upon the facts which you find to be true. Keep in mind that you must follow the law as the judge states it to you.
If the judge should give you any instruction that seems to conflict with or be different from any statement in this pamphlet or instruction given at some other trial, you must accept the instruction given by the judge as being correct and be guided by the judge's statement only.
After summations by counsel and the judge's instructions on the law, the clerk of the court will administer an oath to the bailiff or court attendant, who then will conduct you to the jury room for your deliberation.
Your first duty upon retiring to the jury room is to select a foreperson. The foreperson has the duty to see that discussion is carried on in a free and orderly manner, that the matter and issues you must decide are fully and freely discussed, and that every juror is given an opportunity to participate in the discussion. Careful consideration should be exercised in selecting a well qualified foreperson.
When it is time for the taking of a ballot, the foreperson will see that it is done properly. If the required number of jurors agree on each issue to be decided, the foreperson will sign and date the verdict, so advise the bailiff or court attendant, and return with the signed verdict and any unsigned verdict forms to the courtroom. All jurors must vote on each issue to be determined.
After you retire to the jury room for deliberation, only the exhibits that you are to consider will be supplied to you. If you are not provided with the instructions in written form, you may request them.
If you feel you need further instructions or if you need to have certain testimony read back to you, inform the judge through the bailiff or the court attendant. You should not, however, take such requests lightly, for they generally can be answered only by returning everyone to the courtroom where the court will resume in full session. The procedure may require considerable time, but it is justifiable if you seriously believe it to be necessary or helpful to you in discharging your duty.
In weighing evidence, an important difference exists between civil and criminal cases in the degree of proof required to sustain an allegation. In a criminal case, the defendant, in order to be convicted, must be proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. In a civil case, a party making an affirmative allegation against another has the burden to prove that allegation by a preponderance of the evidence. In each case, the judge will carefully explain to you the degree of proof required to reach a decision. You should pay the same careful attention to the instructions on this subject as you are required to pay to all other instructions.
In the jury room differences of opinion may arise among the jurors. When this occurs, each juror should express his or her opinion and reasoning. By the process of careful and thoughtful discussions, it is generally possible for the jurors to reach a verdict. A juror should not hesitate to change his or her mind where there is good reason for doing so, but one who has a definite opinion, unless conscientiously persuaded to do so as a result of the deliberations, consideration of the views of fellow jurors, and his or her own further thoughts on the matter, should maintain his position, if warranted.
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 you are not advocates, but impartial judges of the facts. All jurors should deliberate and vote on each issue to be decided. Each juror should vote only according to his or her own honest convictions, following a full and free discussion with fellow jurors.
In a civil case, the judge will instruct you as to the number of jurors who must agree in order to reach a verdict. In a criminal case, you will be instructed that the unanimous agreement of all twelve jurors is required. If a jury cannot arrive at a verdict within a reasonable time and the jury indicates to the judge that there is no possibility that they can reach a verdict, the judge, in his or her discretion, may order the jury dismissed.
This results in a mistrial, sometimes referred to as a "hung jury," and may result in a complete retrial of the case.
In your efforts to reach a verdict, keep in mind that you are to consider only the evidence that was presented to you in the courtroom. You should not guess or speculate, although you may draw reasonable inferences and deductions from the evidence presented.
Do not assume that a case is unimportant. If it were your case, it would be important to you, and you would want it to receive earnest and conscientious consideration whether your cause might appear great or small to others.
Juries in this court have been providing outstanding service and have set a worthy standard. It is the responsibility of our judges, you, and of all future jurors to insure the continuance of jury service at the highest level.
Find more information on the Judicial Council Web Site:
- www.courts.ca.gov/juryservice.htm: A Guide to California Jury Service
- What to Expect from Jury Service
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