have been called to serve as a juror. This function is extremely
important. You will want to do your very best to make sure that
any verdict rendered is a well thought out, fair and impartial decision.
If you have never served on a jury, you may have questions about
your duties as a juror. The purpose of this section is to give a
general explanation of how jury trials are performed and your part
as a juror in resolving the issues.
Civil and Criminal
Lawsuits fall into two categories: civil cases
and criminal cases. Generally, the difference between a civil case
and a criminal case requires a different burden of proof.
In a civil
case, the party has to establish its claim by a preponderance of
the evidence. In a criminal case, the defendant must be found guilty
beyond a reasonable doubt.
Additionally, in civil cases, the party starting
the lawsuit is known as the "plaintiff". The person against whom
suit is brought is called the "defendant". In criminal cases, the
party starting the lawsuit is always "The People" acting through
governmental representatives, such as Prosecuting Attorney or the
There are other, very important, differences between
a civil and a criminal case. These differences are not discussed
in this section, but the specific rules which will apply to the
trial in which you participate as a juror, will be explained carefully
to you by the judge. If you do not understand or if you have any
questions about any of the judge's instructions, you may ask the
judge to explain further.
As a prospective
juror, you may be randomly selected to serve as a juror. If your
name is called, you will be taken to a courtroom, where you will be
questioned by the judge and/or lawyers. These questions are called "voir
dire" and are meant only to determine your ability to serve as a
juror. Do not hesitate to answer freely and honestly. The final
selection of the required number of jurors is called a "Jury Panel".
Jurors not selected for service in the courtroom are returned to the
Jury Pool in the Jury Services Department.
As a juror, you decide the facts of the case.
It is your responsibility to listen to all the testimony and consider
all the evidence. You determine how much you believe what each witness
has said. Rely on your own common sense and everyday experience
in deciding what testimony you believe. However, remember that any
bias or prejudice you have based on race, gender, religious, sexual
orientation or national origin of a witness must be set aside. It
is important that you keep an open mind and not make a decision
about anything in the case until you go to the jury room to decide
The opening statement will tell you what the party
"says" or "believes" the relevant facts are. The opening statement
also outlines the evidence by which the party expects to prove the
version of the facts.
Any testimony or any exhibit which tends to prove
or disprove a statement alleged or claimed by one of the parties
is called evidence. "Testimony" means the statements of any person
called to be witness at the trial. An exhibit can be any physical
article introduced at the trial for consideration by the jury in
the determination of the facts in the case.
attorney who has called "the witness" proceeds with direct examination.
In so doing, the attorney asks questions to bring out answers tending
to support facts he wishes to prove. When the direct examination
is finished, the attorney for the other party of parties may cross-examine.
The purpose of cross-examination is to bring out additional information.
During the trial, you may be tempted to guess what the judge may
be thinking. This is a mistake. Even though the judge's ruling may
be mostly in favor of one party, that does not indicate how the
case should be decided.
Toward the close of the trial, the judge will give you instructions.
The purpose of these instructions is to indicate to you the applicable
rules of law. That is, once the jury has determined which version
of facts is to be believed, it must then apply the rules of law
given by the judge to reach its verdicts.
During the trial, there may be delays for many reasons. You may
not know the reason for a delay and should not guess at it. Very
often a delay actually saves time and more quickly brings the case
to an end. Be patient.
Jurors are the sole judges of whether a witness is telling
the truth and is to be believed. Each juror should pay close attention
to the witness who is testifying to hear what the witness says and
to watch their manner and actions. If you cannot hear plainly, do
not hesitate to interrupt and let the judge know that you cannot