I’ve Been Called for Jury Service… What Do I Do Now?

 THOMAS JEFFERSON (1789):  “I consider trial by jury as the only anchor ever yet imagined by man, by which a government can be held to the principles of its constitution.”

My last blog post made me realize that potential jurors need guidance.  What is their role? What should they do if called to serve?  Jury service is the greatest civic responsibility we have.  Our service is necessary, if we want to live in a free democratic society.  Citizens have braved criticism, threat of punishment and public ridicule to give their verdict to insure liberty and justice for all.

The right to trial by jury is so important that it is guaranteed twice in the U.S. Constitution under the 6th and 7th Amendments for criminal and civil trials, respectively. Grand jury protection is required for the issuance of criminal charges in federal court under the 5th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

Here are some do’s and don’t to keep in mind:

1.    In the days leading up to your jury service, don’t read the newspaper or watch television or read the news.

2.    Dress like you respect the proceeding and be on time.

3.     Accurately and completely answer your jury questionnaire.  This is the primary source of information the attorneys will use in deciding if you should serve.

4.     Pay close attention to the questions asked by the attorneys during jury selection.  Fully and accurately answer the questions asked as someone’s well-being or liberty hangs in the balance.

5.    If you have a physical handicap such as language difficulty, eyesight or hearing problems, then let the bailiff and parties know of your limitations, even if not asked.

6.    Do not discuss the case with your fellow jurors until the Court says that you may.

7.    Tell the Court or parties if you have been subpoenaed as a witness in the case, are interested In a similar suit begun or planned, have an opinion as to the outcome of the case due to information received from a witness or news report, if you are a defendant in a criminal case, biased for or against a party, related to a party, are a felon or in law enforcement or otherwise cannot be fair.

8.     Jurors must be fluent in English and able to read and hear.

9.     Do not conduct research on your own or as a group,

10.    Do get rest.

11.    Do not use dictionaries, the Internet, or any other resource to gather any information about the issues in this case.

12.    Do not investigate the case, conduct any experiments, or attempt to gain any specialized knowledge about the case.

13.     Do not receive help in deciding the case from any outside source.

14.     Do not use laptops or cell phones in the courtroom or in the jury room while discussing the case,

15.     Do not consume any alcohol or drugs that could affect your ability to hear and understand the evidence,

16.     Do not read, watch, or listen to anything about the trial from any source whatsoever, including newspapers, radio, television, or the Internet,

17.     Do not listen to discussions among, or receive information from, other people about this trial, or

18.     Do not visit or view the scene of any event involved in this case. If you happen to pass by the scene, do not stop or investigate.

19.     Do not talk to any of the parties, their lawyers, any of the witnesses, or members of the media. If anyone tries to talk to you about this case, you must tell the bailiff or judge immediately.

20.     Do not discuss the case with anyone other than your fellow jurors.

21.     Do not abandon your opinions on what you believe is a just verdict just to get out of there.

22.     Be courageous. You are the embodiment of justice.

24.     Be respectful of your fellow jurors opinions, listen carefully and keep an open mind.

25.     Follow the judge’s instructions.

26,    Report anyone to the bailiff who fails to obey the court’s rules.

27.    Remember you cannot be punished for hanging a jury’s verdict.  Follow your conscience.

Good luck!

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About Richard A. Cook

Richard Cook graduated from Purdue University in the Economics Honor Program in 1979 and obtained his Juris Doctor degree from Valparaiso University School of Law in 1982. Following law school, Richard served as a federal law clerk in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Indiana, Hammond Division. In 1984, Richard began working as Deputy Prosecutor for the Lake County Prosecutor's Office and from there, served as Assistant U. S. Attorney for the Northern District of Indiana, South Bend Division. There he handled a number of complex criminal matters and jury trials. While there, Richard received the Chief Postal Inspector's Special Award and a letter of commendation from the U.S. Attorney General for his work prosecuting a major money order fraud scheme being perpetrated out of the Indiana State Prison system. Since leaving the U.S. Attorney's office in 1989, Richard has focused primarily on civil work and is currently a member of the firm Yosha Cook & Tisch in Indianapolis. Richard is also a member of the ITLA, IBA and the ABA, as well as, a fellow for the American College of Trial Lawyers. He is AV rated by Martindale-Hubbell.

Posted on July 29, 2015, in Jury Selection and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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