A family member received a letter in the mail recently that requested her presence for jury service. While she had previously been through the process, many have not and that letter requiring your presence can cause a bit of confusion of what is to come.
The first question is often “why me?” The process by which you were selected varies by jurisdiction but each has a common purpose, which is to bring qualified people into the jury pool that will represent a fair cross section of the community. In order to do this, a large database exists in which names are randomly pulled to send letters for jury service.
Two types of juries exist. One is a grand jury and the other is a trial jury, also known as a petit jury. Due to recent events, the term grand jury has been used quite frequently. Practically speaking, a grand jury is a group of people chosen to meet regularly (usually once a week) during a certain time frame (usually around 6 months). The grand jury will hear evidence regarding possible crimes and will decide whether sufficient evidence exists in order to bring charges.
A trial jury on the other hand is selected for a specific trial in which an issue of fact will be decided (civil or criminal). Length of trials can vary greatly from days to weeks and sometimes even months. Generally, however, trials last less than a week.
The next question is often what will happen when you arrive to court. When brought into a courtroom on a day that a jury is selected, a large pool of people will arrive. The day will usually start very early and will begin by having everyone watch or listen to information regarding the process. Jackson County’s video for jury service can be found here – http://www.16thcircuit.org/jury-orientation-video. This large group of people will then be broken up into smaller groups that are sent to a specific courtroom for jury selection regarding the specific case, also known as voir dire. This process includes the attorneys asking the jury pool a variety of questions.
While many think that remaining silent will aid them in getting to go home without serving, this is often not the case. When questioning prospective jurors, attorneys are looking for bias or prejudice that would cause someone to not be fair during the trial. At the end of voir dire, the jury is selected (usually consisting of 6-12 individuals depending on the type of case).