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Your Role As a Juror

You 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 Cases
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 City Attorney.

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.

Jury Selection
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.

Importance of a Jury
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 case.

Trial Procedure
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.

Witness and Other Evidence
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.

Examination of Witness
An 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.

Judge's Opinion
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.

Delays During Trial
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.

Hearing and Seeing Witnesses
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 hear.

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