One day you bring in the mail and there is that little notice telling you to appear at the courthouse on a certain day and time for jury duty. So when that day and time arrive off you go to the courthouse. Upon entering the building you must hand the police officer any items you have and walk through a metal detector. Then you are sent to a large room where you check in and receive a badge that says JUROR. Now is the time to go to the court clerk and give your excuse for not being able to serve. If the clerk excuses you, you may leave. If you are able to stay , you will go through the process known as jury selection or voir dire. Simply put these are the next steps:

Things You Will Need

Jury Notice
Current I.D.

Step 1

The first group of jurors is selected and will sit in the jury booth. In most cases the lawyers will question each juror but sometimes only the bench(Judge)is permitted to question potential jurors. This decision is up to the presiding Judge. At some trials they give you a questionnaire to fill out.

Step 2

Each juror will then be questioned and either excused or left sitting in the jury box. As potential jurors are let go new prospective jurors are called up to take their place and questioned in the same manner. This can go on for days and hundreds of potential jurors can be sent home. Finally the jury of twelve plus several alternates are chosen and the trial can begin.

Step 3

As a current juror the judge will tell you what time to be at the courthouse each day and will excuse you at the end of the day. It can be a long day and go on for many weeks depending on the length of the trial.

Step 4

After the last witness is heard the attorneys will both give their closing arguments. You will then be taken to the jury room for jury deliberation. This is the time when the people you have been sitting with and having lunch with become total strangers again. Up until this point you have not been allowed to discuss the trial with anyone, nor have you been permitted to read any newspapers or watch any news of the trial. It can be very surprising and upsetting to find out that the different jurors conclusions are exactly opposite from yours.

Step 5

It can take days or weeks for the jury to arrive at a verdict. The jury only decides the guilt or innocence of the party but the actual penalty is set by the judge. If the jury cannot unanimously agree in a criminal case it is a "hung jury". In this instance the case may be retried but in any event your job as a juror is done. "I consider trial by jury as the only anchor ever yet imagined by man,
by which a government can be held to the principles of its constitution."
Thomas Jefferson

Tips & Warnings

  • If called it is good to do your civic duty - I did - I will think long and hard about it if I am called again. It is very difficult to decide another persons guilt or innocence.
  • If you have any feeling or reason that you should not be on a jury it is your duty to ask to approach the bench and give your reasons to the judge and the attorneys, they will make that decision and at the same time you can either serve or not with a clear conscience.