It's Your Duty and Honor
As a juror, you play an essential role in the American system of justice.
You do not need any special skills or legal knowledge to be a juror. You do need to keep an open mind and be willing to make decisions free of personal feelings and biases. As a juror, you will listen to opening statements and closing arguments for both sides. You will also learn about and weigh the evidence that has been collected for the trial. Then you will be asked to make a decision about the case after you have talked it over with the other jurors during deliberations.
During the trial, the judge serves as the court's presiding officer and as the final authority on the law. The lawyers act as advocates for their sides of the case. As a juror, you are responsible for impartially evaluating the facts presented and for applying the law to these facts as the judge instructs you. These combined efforts bring about the fair and impartial administration of justice in our state and nation.
Why Do We Have a Jury System?
The Constitution of the United States guarantees each U.S. citizen a right to trial by jury in both criminal and civil matters. The jury must be present and hear evidence, and it also must be impartial. Impartial means that the jurors must not have already made up their minds about the outcome of the case. To ensure that the jury is impartial, the lawyers for both sides of a case have the opportunity to remove any jurors who appear to them to be biased. Juries must also be representative. This means that the jurors must be from the same community where the crime or injury occurred and the jury pool must reflect the makeup of the larger community.
Jury service has not always been as universal a right as it is today. The social movements that have shaped our country have also influenced the history of the jury. With the end of slavery, African Americans were supposed to be able to serve on juries. In fact, not many blacks served until the next major step forward in our racial history: the civil rights movement. Likewise, women could not serve on juries until after they won the right to vote in 1920 with the passage of the 19th Amendment to the Constitution. Women were rarely seen on juries until the women's movement in the 1960s applied pressure to an unrepresentative system. Today, people with disabilities are claiming their rightful place in the jury box and demanding the appropriate accommodations in order to participate fully.
You Can Make a Difference
Without you, the jury system cannot work the way the authors of the Constitution wanted. Yet jury service means rearranging schedules, canceling appointments, and oftentimes missing work. But if you were on trial, wouldn't you want someone like you to make the sacrifices necessary to be a part of your jury? Your public service as a juror protects our right to have a trial by an impartial jury.
Over and over, jurors who have served tell us they enjoy being involved in making an important civic decision. Often jury service is the most direct participation the average citizen can have in the workings of government.
Thank you for serving!