10/20/2017

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The Jury

A jury is a body of people who are selected or chosen, as impartial peers, to determine facts in a civil or criminal proceeding. A jury is traditionally composed of 12 persons, although there may be less, with one or two alternates.

  • As a distinction from a grand jury, which has a different function, this type of jury is called a petite or trial jury.

The function of a jury is to decide the truth based on the presentation of factual evidence, with instructions from the court as to how to apply the law to the facts.

In the United States, all citizens between the ages of 18 and 70 are subject to jury duty, although certain people who are employed in certain occupations are exempt, such as attorneys and some ministers. Criminals and people who are mentally handicapped are also disqualified.

Each state has it's own rules for selecting potential person's who may serve on a jury, but in general, most state's requirements are the same. The juror must be a U. S. citizen, meet age requirements, reside in that particular courts local jurisdiction, have approved integrity, and be reasonably intelligent.

Those selected to serve on a jury are drawn from a pool of potential jurors whose names are taken randomly from voter registration and tax roles, thereby insuring that a cross section of the whole community will be represented. Jurors are usually paid, by state statutes, for the time spent serving on jury duty.

Prospective jurors are screened and may be challenged and disqualified by either attorney, or by the presiding judge. An examination is set to determine if circumstances may exist that might influence the decision of a particular juror for self serving reasons. If that is determined, the juror may be dismissed.

The aim of the court is to select jurors who are impartial, with no prior opinion, and is not biased or prejudiced against either side involved in the case.

When the appropriate number of jurors have been selected and accepted by both sides in the case, the jury is sworn in and the trial is set to begin. A foreman is usually elected by the jury itself to act as it's spokesman during the trial and it's consequent deliberations. In some jurisdictions, the foreman may be chosen because he or she is the first juror selected.

During the trial, the jury sits in the jury box so they can be in a position to see and hear the witnesses and the evidence. The judge decides what evidence can be legally admitted during the trial but the jury must decide if the evidence is believable.

Once all the evidence is presented, the two counsels, first for the defense, and then for the plaintiff or prosecution, does a summation, addressing the jury, and reviewing the evidence in the case and commenting on what is favorable to that counsel's side of the case. After the summation, the judge gives the jury instructions to the law governing the case.

The jury is then instructed to retire from the courtroom and start deliberations, which must continue until an agreement to a verdict is reached by all 12 members, or until the presiding judge makes a determination that no agreement can be reached.

In a civil trial, the verdict may be "for the plaintiff" or "for the defendant," and "guilty" or "not guilty" in a criminal trial. If no verdict can be reached, it is called a hung jury and a new trial may be set.

 

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