The juror selection process in any particular case usually begins with a brief explanation by the judge of the general nature of the case and the names of the parties and the attorneys.
The judge begins the procedure by questioning the members of the jury panel so as to determine each member's ability to serve as a juror in that particular case. Some questions may be directed to all of the jurors at once while others may be directed to individual jurors. The types of questions asked are determined by the judge, with suggestions from the attorneys representing the parties. The judge, for example, may inquire whether any of the jurors have any knowledge of the case.
The lawyers in the case will also have the right to ask additional questions of the jurors. This questioning process is called "voir dire", is designed to allow the lawyers to determine whether each juror can serve fairly and impartially in the case. Voir dire also provides the attorneys with the opportunity to become acquainted with the prospective jurors.
If you have never before served as a juror, it may seem that some of the questions are personal but it is not intended that any question should embarrass or reflect negatively on a juror in any way. Lawyers have a duty to their clients to ask those questions, which they feel, will assist them in deciding which jurors to select.
After questioning, a juror may be excused or challenged from sitting on a particular case. There are two (2) kinds of challenges: a challenge "for cause" and a peremptory challenge.
Whenever the questioning of a juror discloses some reason why the juror might not be objective or unbiased in the case (i.e. if the juror was related to or employed by one of the parties), that juror may be excused "for cause". This excuse for cause may be on the judge's initiative or upon motion by one of the parties' attorneys. There is no limit to the number of jurors who may be excused for cause.
After voir dire has been concluded and there are no further challenges for cause by either attorney, the attorneys may finally choose their jury by exercising a certain number of jurors without having to show a reason. A juror who is challenged and thereby excused for service should not be offended, as each attorney as a different idea as to the type of juror who would be most beneficial to the trial of the case.
When the jury has been selected and the required number of jurors are in the jury box, the jurors are sworn to try the case. This is called "empaneling" the jury.
Presentation of Evidence
Evidence may be in the form of a written document, an object, a photograph or an x-ray. Some pieces of evidence are called exhibits. In a civil trial, this physical evidence may be taken with you to the jury room and may be considered in your deliberations.
Most evidence is presented in the form of spoken testimony of witnesses who have taken an oath to tell the truth. The attorney who has called the witness asks questions of that witness first. This questioning is called direct examination. After direct examination is concluded, the lawyer for the opposing party may ask questions of the witness, or cross-examine the witness. After cross-examination, the lawyer who called the witness has a final opportunity to ask questions of the witness. This is called re-direct examination.
In some instances, an important witness cannot be present to testify in court. If such a witness has previously given testimony under oath and that testimony was written down, this testimony can be read into evidence. Such testimony, called a deposition, should be treated as though the witness was actually testifying in court.
From time to time during a trial, you may hear the attorney's make what are known as "objections". Objections may be made for several reasons, including objections to the conduct of the parties, to the conduct of the attorney's, to the form of the questions asked during the examination of a witness or the introduction of evidence. If the objection is deemed improper or not well founded, the judge will "over-rule" it and allow the proceedings to continue and the evidence to be introduced. If, on the other hand, the judge finds the objection to be valid and proper, the objection may be "sustained", there by discontinuing that conduct or questioning and prohibiting the introduction of the evidence in question.
Under the rules of law governing the introduction and admission of evidence, a lawyer has the right to object to the introduction of any evidence that he or she believes is not proper. The judge is the sole authority on what evidence is proper. Since the evidence may by excluded, the jury is usually not allowed to hear arguments as to admissibility. Thus, the judge may send the jury out of the courtroom to allow the attorneys to argue whether the evidence should be admitted or not. Sometimes evidence gets before the jury before the attorney has a chance to object. The judge may order the jury to disregard such evidence completely. If so ordered, the jury must disregard the evidence and not consider it as evidence.
In a civil trial, after you retire to the jury room, you are entitled to have all exhibits brought to you.
If you have a question for the judge, or need to be re-instructed on the law, please write it out and hand it to the court officer who will present it to the judge. The judge will then take the appropriate action to either answer your question or to notify you that the question cannot be answered and explain why the question cannot be answered.
You should not submit questions to the judge without giving them careful consideration. Questions from the jury to the judge can be answered only by returning the jury to the courtroom and resuming court. The procedure may require considerable time but is justifiable if you seriously believe it to be necessary or helpful to you in discharging your duty.
In weighing evidence, an important distinction between civil and criminal case is the degree of proof required to sustain an allegation. In a criminal case, the defendant is presumed to be innocent, and, to be convicted must be proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. In a civil case, the party who has made an affirmative allegation against another party must prove that allegation by a preponderance of evidence to support a finding in his or her favor on that allegation. In each case, the judge will carefully explain to you the degree of proof required to support particular findings and you should pay the same careful attention to instructions on this subject as you are required to pay to all other instructions.
Quite often, differences of opinion arise among the jurors in the jury room. When this occurs, each juror should express his or her opinions and reasons therefore. By the process of careful and thorough reasoning, it is generally possible for jurors to reach a verdict. As a juror, you should not hesitate to change your mind when there is good reason for doing so. If, however you have a definite opinion on a question, you should not change that opinion unless conscientiously moved to do so as a result of the deliberations, your consideration of the views of your colleagues, and your own further thought on the matter.
It would be wrong for a juror to refuse to listen to the arguments and opinions of the other jurors or to deny the right of another juror to express his or her opinion. All jurors should deliberate and vote on each issue to be decided.
Announcement of the Verdict