We may be selected to report for jury duty, and more often than not, we are not chosen, but when you are, it is important to realize what filling that role means, to be a juror. At one point or another in our life, we have all received a notice asking us to serve on a jury. The jury is charged with the task of deciding which of the case facts have been proven, and based upon the proven facts apply the law to the decision. The jury is not expected to know the law, but rather is given the law by the judge. The jury must apply the law, even if they do not agree with the law, and they are not permitted to turn to outside sources when considering the law. The conclusion drawn upon applying the law to the facts is the verdict.
The jury determines the facts based on testimony and exhibits submitted into evidence throughout the trial. It is the jury’s job to determine and judge these facts. The jury will decide which witnesses to believe. But the jury does not have to believe the entire testimony of a witness and may believe only a portion of it. The jury will then assign weight to the testimony, which is an important part of a juror and a jury’s job as a whole.
The jury is not to take into consideration the attorney’s personal opinion about the facts or witnesses. Similarly, the jury is not to be swayed by any appearance of partiality on the part of the judge. The presiding judge is permitted to ask questions to the witnesses, and the judge is supposed to make sure that he or she appears impartial.
Questions to a witness may be objected to and the judge may agree to the objection; therefore the question will not be answered. However, there are instances where the question is answered before there was a chance to object. In that instance, the judge will have the answer stricken or removed from the record. Whether the question is objected to or the answer is stricken, the jury is not to draw any inferences from the unanswered question or a stricken answer. Basically, the jury is expected to make believe that they never heard the question and answer.
Serving as a juror may not be as easy as it seems; after all, we are being asked to be judges of the facts. Being a juror, however, is our civil duty and therefore, we should take the opportunity to fulfill our duty with pride. And most certainly, we will come out having learned something about how our judicial system actually works from a source other than television, radio and pundits.
The article “To Be a Juror” was Posted by Michael B Schulman, Managing Attorney