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Reporting For Jury Duty

Reporting For Jury Duty

Iloilo Jones (Executive Director of Fully Informed Jury Association) gives expert video advice on: Who should I ask if I have questions about reporting for jury duty?; What do I need to know before I show up for jury duty?; How should I prepare before going to the court house? and more...

Who should I ask if I have questions about reporting for jury duty?

If you get a summons and you have questions about reporting for jury duty, probably the best person to call would be the clerk of courts. Talk with that person and find out exactly what time; make sure you understand what time you're going to be there. Sometimes people say, "Should I bring a book? Can I bring my needlepoint? How long do you think I'm going to be there, because my boss wants to know if I'm taking off half the day or the whole day? What should I wear, I go jogging or my workout class is at that time. Do I need to go home and change clothes before I come?". If you have questions like that call the clerk of courts and they're usually very good about answering any questions you have about reporting for jury duty.

What do I need to know before I show up for jury duty?

If you are call for Jury Duty there are some thing that are absolutely essential that you have to know before you show up for Jury Duty. The most important you need to know is that you are going in as an individual and your primary job is to protect the human rights of whomever on trial. But let me say this; if the person on trial is a violent person and is a danger to society then your job is to protect the community form that individual the best way you can by making sure they are not going to be at large to hurt anybody else, because probably hurt somebody. You must remember this; you must remember as you go in you must know that the person is innocent until to proven guilty beyond reasonable doubt. Take with you a healthy degree of scepticism about all the witnesses in the case and remember that even forensic evidence is not always correct and remember that you have a brain, you are intelligent and you can think as well as the judge or anyone else and really, really remember that you must render a verdict based on your conscience, your own sense of justice, your sense of right and wrong. Don't be swayed by anyone else on the jury, don't be swayed by what the prosecutor says to you – I don't care if the defendant cries, or their mother cries. You are the one who must make a decision, independently, as an individual, using your own best thinking and using your best sense of justice.

What are some reasons I might be disqualified as a juror?

Once you're called to serve, and you get your summons and you're called in to serve, there are many reasons you can be disqualified for the jury. That presupposes of course that they actually get to you and question you and they just haven't already selected enough jurors and they send you home. But if they actually question you and then they decide that they're dismissing you, it can be for any number of reasons. You could not match the profile of either the prosecutor or the defense attorney because they want certain kinds of people to sit on the jury and you don't match that profile. And they have a right to do that, by the way, if they want. Let's say it's a case of a mother in a rage hitting her child so hard that she injures the child, they may not want any mothers with young children on the jury. They may want more mature people or they may want more men and so they may disqualify you for those reasons. Some general reasons why you might be disqualified is if they decide that you might not be able to understand the case. If they think that the case is something that is maybe a little too technical and they aren't quite sure that you would understand that, that would be another reason you would be disqualified.

What should I expect when I show up at the courthouse?

When you're called for jury duty and you show up at the courthouse here are some things that you should expect: first of all you should expect that, you've already checked so you know where to park, but you should expect that they're going to want ID, maybe even to get into the courthouse. You definitely don't want to carry anything that's considered dangerous with you when you go into the courthouse. Again, make sure that you have a proper photo ID or passport or your driver's license or something to present. When you get to the courthouse, you will have a room number on your summons but if you're not sure or you think it might have changed or something or there's a sign on the door saying "all jurors report to room 112" and yours says 310, ask somebody and tell them why you are there and there's usually officials wandering around in the courthouse and you can show that to them and they will help you. When you get into the room you should expect that you will be told to sit down with the other jurors. Expect to be questioned, expect that you may have to wait a long time before anybody talks to you, expect that you may sit there until lunch and they may have talked to 20 other people and somebody may come out after leaving you alone for a while and attorneys have gone off to agree on the jury and the bailiff may come out and say everybody go home. So, you have to be kind of expecting the unexpected. You have to be prepared for not knowing what's going to happen, but at least be there and give yourself the opportunity to get on a jury.

How long will I be at the courthouse?

If you receive a summons and you have to go to the courthouse it's hard to tell how long you will be there. Some people show up and if its a traffic case or something fairly simple they may just take the first twelve people, they may say do we need, does anybody in this group know this person or this person or this person, are you related to any of these people in any way, do any of you work for this company, were any of you ever involved in something and then they may send you home. On the other hand, if it's a very complicated case and there are sixty people called in the jury pool, you may be there all day, while they question you individually and in depth.

Why do I have to sit around all day during jury selection?

It takes a long time to select a jury these days. It used to be a much simpler process. They'd say, "Do you know any of these people? Is there any reason you don't think you can serve with a sense of fairness and administer justice?" And you'd say, "I can do that," and you were seated. Now they try to really stack the juries. They try to get people they think have the right psychological profile for particular cases. So they may really nitpick, and that takes a long time. So you might be there all day. You might even be there two days.