Jury Service During The Trial
Jury Service During The Trial
Iloilo Jones (Executive Director of Fully Informed Jury Association) gives expert video advice on: What is the 'power to nullify'?; Is jury nullification possible in all cases?; If I have questions or concerns about the trial, how do I talk to the judge? and more...
What is the 'power to nullify'?
It applies to any time you serve on a jury and you think that there is a bad law or even if it's a good law and it's misapplied. You must render a verdict based on conscious. That's why we have juries, because we're humans with a conscious. So if you think that the law is a bad law or that it's misapplied, you have the authority and the duty and the obligation to your fellow humans to nullify or veto that bad law. Hold that law. That law doesn't mean anything to you in this instance. That's what nullification is all about.
Is jury nullification possible in all cases?
There will often be cases where you may not even be sure if the law's being misapplied or not. You may not be sure of the person's innocence or guilt. There are very few cases when you should not consult your conscience. I can't think of any cases when you should not consult your conscience. If your conscience tells you that to convict this person would be to wrong this person, that it would impose harm, unjust harm or punishment on this person, an unjust fine or imprisonment on this person, and you don't feel they deserve that, then you must nullify simply by refusing to convict. You don't have to explain to anybody. It's your right as a juror to just say, "Sorry, folks, I know you all think this guy is guilty. You're entitled to your opinion. I cannot find this person guilty."
What are some key terms that I should know in order to understand the case?
You need to understand the concept of innocent until proven guilty and you need to know what that means. Not guilty, can sometimes not mean the same thing as innocent, but when someone starts the trial and they are on trial, you must consider that person absolutely innocent of all the charges until it is proven to you beyond a shadow of a doubt, beyond a reasonable doubt that they are guilty. So that you must understand what the word innocent means, and what the word guilty means. Always look at all the facts of the case and be prepared to know that you have to consider all the evidence submitted to you.
Can I take notes during the trial?
One of the nice things that has been happening lately and you may find this when you serve on a jury, is that in most instances now jurors are allowed to take notes. In fact they are going to give you a little legal pad and pencil. They will encourage you to take notes to keep up with whats going on in the case. There a a very few veniews now, very few jurisdictions where jurors are not allowed to keep notes. Generally, you can take those with you into the jury deleberations room. You may not take them home with you. You should not take them home with you. You should not share them with anybody. You should not give them to anybody else or leave them where they can be read by anybody else. But you certainly should take advantage of the opportunity to take notes. It will help you keep the facts clear in your mind.
Do I get to ask questions if I am on a jury?
Sometimes when you're on the jury, you may have questions, somebody may have mumbled or you might have been just momentarily distracted because they were taking down an exhibit or something. You couldn't hear because they were clanking things over here while somebody was on the witness stand. Ask to have that repeated and you can again write a note to the jury foreman or the bailer or you can wait until you are in the jury deliberation room and say, “You know I made a note here that while that witness was talking about blood samples, they were taking down the eagles so that they can have the pictures on and I couldn't hear what he said about the blood types. Could we get a copy of that transcript of the proceedings of the court from the court recorder so I can review what was actually said.” You should do that because remember this is an important position that you're in. You need to have all the facts clear and straight in your mind. You're making an important decision about somebody.
What do I do if I do not agree with certain laws?
If there is a law that you really disagree with. I wouldn't talk about that with anyone on the jury if I were you. Just refuse to convict. Follow your conscience. You have a right to disagree with laws. You are a representative, even though you are an individual too. You also represent your community. If you as part of your community, as a member of the jury pool disagree with a law, and the standards and the restrictions it imposes upon individual human rights, or just on individuals. Don't convict anybody under that law. Stick to your principles.
What if I don't believe the witness in the trial?
Be skeptical of anyone who's a witness, for either side, and remember that often all the evidence is not going to be presented in court, and you're not going to know it because the judge may have ruled that it's not relevant, and some of the evidence that is presented may not be true. You have to be your own personal sleuth in this case, that's why you have to pay attention to body language and facial gestures and what's going on and the credentials of forensic witnesses. Pay attention, and be skeptical.
What if I don't agree with the verdict other jurors want?
Sometimes when you're serving as a juror in a case, everybody else on the jury may decide that that person is guilty, or that person is innocent, and you may disagree. And they may say to you, "Hey, come on, let's get the verdict rendered here so we can all get home in time for dinner." Or, "It's Monday night football, are you out of your mind? I want to get out of here! What's wrong with you, are you crazy?" If you are convinced, if you have a conviction, that's where the word convict comes from, if you have a conviction, if your conscience and your best thinking ability does not allow you to render the same verdict that they are rendering, do not abandon your own conviction, do not abandon your own conscience, stick to your guns. A person's life may be at stake.
Can I be kicked off the jury after the case is in deliberation?
You have the right to simply refuse to vote guilty. You can just say, "I cannot vote guilty." You don't have to give a reason for it, that's your right. If you start talking about it, if you start arguing with the other jurors one of them may report you to the judge and they may say "this person disagrees with the law, they think it's a bad law or they don't think it's being correctly applied in this case." The judge may remove you from the jury and replace you with an alternate simply because you disagree with the law. Now they really shouldn't do that. You should be able to have a discussion with your fellow jurors and say "I really think it's a crummy law that everybody with blue eyes has to be off the streets by ten o'clock at night or they go to jail." But, you know, that's the law. But you can disagree with it or refuse to convict people, but don't tell anybody that, because they will probably take you off and they'll say you're not following the law as it was given to you. You don't really have to, but they want you to. You have a right to veto that law or to nullify that law. So just keep that opinion to yourself and just refuse to vote guilty. You don't have to give a reason.
How long should I expect deliberation to take?
Sometimes when your are serving on a very complicated case and all the jurors get to the jury deliberation room you may or may not be sequestered but there may be so much evidence you need to rehash just so you agree on points of fact about the case but it may take you a long time. You may need to ask for more things to be brought in from the court reporter. Sometimes jury deliberation can take days and in a couple of cases I know it has taken a couple of weeks. So it doesn't usually take that long , but if it does, don't be upset about that because what you are there to do is make sure that justice is rendered and until your all convinced that your individual verdict is your best verdict for justice you should continue to talk. And even if you can't all agree keep talking to each other respectfully, listen to everybody's point of view, but don't agree just to be on the same side with everyone else. So let the deliberations go on as long as they need to.
Can I be punished if the judge doesn't like the verdict I vote for?
Sometimes you maybe the only jourer, who doesn't go along with the 11 jourer's on the case. Something in you won't like you vote, guilty or not guilty, neither one and you just have to stick with that. You need to know you've being courageous, but you also need to know that you not necessarily being brave, because you cannot be punish for your verdict. Jourer's cannot be punished for the virdict they render, that's why you're there. To render a virdict based on your conscious, based on you're own understanding of the fact's have been presented. No-one is to punish you for sticking to what you believe.
Is it true a jury can 'veto' the law?
It may come up in a discussion that everybody thinks that this is a bad law for an instance, slavery or prohibition to name a couple, we know now are very silly laws and very bad too. And it may come out just kind of fourth-width, that you all think this was a stupid law, they should never had been on the books, they should not be in forced and we know there were a lot of bad laws still on the book. There laws on spitting on sidewalks, on some place looking put on jail for a week. I don't think any jury could really convict somebody under that law but it's still on the books on some places so you can veto that law, you can nullify that law and simply refuse to convict that person and that is your authority, that is your right, that is your duty, that is your obligation, that is your power as a jury to do that.
What is a 'hung jury'?
When the jury is hung it means that they're stuck. They're in a place where they know they're never going to get to a consensual verdict where everybody agrees on the verdict. It's okay to have a hung jury. A hung jury again is when not everybody agrees on the verdict, and so you need to let the judge know you've been deliberating in good faith. You can't agree on a verdict, and he or she will probably ask you to deliberate a little more and you still may not agree on a verdict. That's a hung jury, and that means there will be a re-trial. That's okay.
What happens if the jury can't come to a verdict?
That's not unusual, because you all bring with you your individual personal perceptions of everything that's happening in that courtroom, and everything you're being presented and told in that courtroom. So, if you can't come to an agreement, you have a hung jury. Justice can be served by a hung jury, because that means that there's doubt about a verdict one way or the other. Somebody didn't do a job of convincing you all -- all twelve of you -- beyond a reasonable doubt of innocence or guilt. And so, obviously, more needs to be heard about this case, and you may not be on the next jury, but at least everybody now knows that there wasn't enough concrete presentation on either side to convince you. That's always a good signal to send.
What are 'post trial interviews'?
You may be asked by the media to give interviews about why the jury decided the way it did or you as an individual juror decided the way you did. If it's a hung jury and it's going for another trial, I would encourage you not to talk with them and the judge may tell you the same thing. If there's been a verdict rendered, the media may want to talk with you if it's a case that's had a lot of publicity. Especially if you've been sequestered during the trial and this may be their only chance to have a media feeding frenzy. You may talk to them if you wish. Besides the media, the attorneys for one side or the other, or both sides and some of the jury consultants may want to ask you how you reached your verdict. They want to know your thinking. They want to know what they did right or what they did wrong or what they didn't do enough of or what they did too much of that caused you to render your verdict. However, you are not obligated in any way to speak to anyone. You can simply say, "I'd rather not talk about my verdict, I have no comment."