A Look at How a Jury is Selected and the Rules Governing Them

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Have you ever received notice to report for jury duty?  Have you ever had to appear in court for jury duty?  Have you ever been selected to actually sit on a jury?  Are you charged with a crime and just curious as to how the jury process works?  In this weeks blog the Indianapolis Criminal Defense Attorneys at Banks & Brower look at the rules governing the selection of a jury(as this blog is geared to criminal cases, the blog will focus on the rules as they apply to criminal cases, the rules are different is some aspects on civil cases).
Jury selection is such an important area of law that it has its own set of rules.  Here we will look at some of the most relevant Jury Rules.
Jury Rule 2:  This rule requires each county to develop a process by which to assemble a jury pool to serve as the jurors, it also allows the county to employ someone to oversee this process.  Larger counties, like Marion County, have an entire staff that manage their jury pool.
Jury Rule 3:  Requires the jury panels that are sent to the various courts for trials to be selected from the established jury pool randomly.  This rule prevents the old process of just “grabbing a juror off the street”.  It used to be that if a court was short jurors it might go out in the hall or the street and grab someone to serve, this rule no longer allows such a practice.
Jury Rule 5:   This Rule sets some minimum qualifications that someone must have to serve as a juror.  To serve as a juror you must be a U.S. Citizen; be at least 18 years old; reside in the county that has called you in for duty; be able to read, write and understand the English language; you can’t be suffering a mental or physical disability that would prevent you from serving; you can’t be under a current guardianship due to a mental incapacity; if you have lost your voting rights due to a felony conviction you can’t serve; and if your a law enforcement officer you can’t serve on a criminal jury.
Jury Rule 7:  If you are summonsed to jury duty at a time that would cause some extreme hardship for you to serve, you can contact the court and ask for a deferral from service.  Rule 7 allows the Court to excuse someone from service for up to 1 year if service would cause undue hardship or extreme inconvenience.  Don’t try to abuse this rule, a good judge will not be happy if you request a deferral for a reason that is not very important.
Jury Rule 11:  Provides that prospective jurors must be given an orientation so as to allow them to understand the process.  In many counties this orientation is completed via a recorded video message that is played for the prospective jurors.
Jury Rule 13:  Think you might deceive the Court into avoiding selection?  Not a good idea.  You are sworn to answer the truth in jury selection.  Specifically the Court will read the following that must be answered affirmatively:  “Do you swear or affirm that you will honestly answer any question asked of you during jury selection?”
Jury Rule 14:  At the start of selection the Court will give some general information about the case.  The information the Rule anticipates the Court giving is:
(1) Introduction of the participants;
(2) The nature of the case;
(3) The applicable standard of proof;
(4) The applicable burden(s) of proof;
(5) The presumption of innocence in a criminal case;
(6) The appropriate means by which jurors may address their private concerns to the judge;
(7) The appropriate standard of juror conduct;
(8) The anticipated course of proceedings during trial; and
(9) The rules regarding challenges.
(b) To facilitate the jury panel’s understanding of the case, with the court’s consent the parties may present brief statements of the facts and issues (mini opening statements) to be determined by the jury.  This rule is not used by many courts, but there are some that utilize this mini-opening.
Jury Rule 16:  Tells us how many jurors serve on any given case.  If the trial is for Murder or a Level 1, 2, 3, 4, or 5 felony, then there are 12 jurors that serve.  If the jury is for a Level 6 felony or any level of misdemeanor, then there are 6 members of the jury.  In addition the rule also allows the Court to allow for the selection of as many alternate jurors as the Court deems necessary.  Additionally, the rule requires any verdict of the jury to be unanimous.
Jury rule 17:  Is very important in that it sets forth the first type of strike that an attorney may utilize to strike a prospective juror.  This is called a strike “for cause”.  These should be utilized prior to the swearing in for the jury.  The possible strikes for cause are that the prospective juror:
(1) is disqualified under Rule 5;
(2) served as a juror in that same county within the previous three hundred sixty-five (365) days in a case that resulted in a verdict;
(3) will be unable to comprehend the evidence and the instructions of the court due to any reason including defective sight or hearing, or inadequate English language communication skills;
(4) has formed or expressed an opinion about the outcome of the case, and is unable to set that opinion aside and render an impartial verdict based upon the law and the evidence;
(5) was a member of a jury that previously considered the same dispute involving one or more of the same parties;
(6) is related within the fifth degree to the parties, their attorneys, or any witness subpoenaed in the case;
(7) has a personal interest in the result of the trial;
(8) is biased or prejudiced for or against a party to the case; or
(9) is a person who has been subpoenaed in good faith as a witness in the case.
(10) was a member of the grand jury that issued the indictment;
(11) is a defendant in a pending criminal case;
(12) in a case in which the death penalty is sought, is not qualified to serve in a death penalty case under law; or
(13) has formed or expressed an opinion about the outcome of the case which appears to be founded upon
a. a conversation with a witness to the transaction;
b. reading or hearing witness testimony or a report of witness testimony.
Jury Rule 18:  Sets forth the other type of strike an attorney may use.  This is referred to as the peremptory strike.  This type of strike is one that an attorney may use for any reason as long as it isn’t a discriminatory reason.  In a death penalty or life without parole case each side gets 20 of the peremptory strikes.  If the charge is murder or a Class A, B, or C felony then each side gets 10 of these strikes.  In cases involving D felonies or any misdemeanor, then each side gets 5.
Jury Rule 19:  If you are “lucky” enough to make it through the strikes and are seated as a juror, this rule sets forth the oath the Court must administer to you.  This oath reads as follows:   “Do each of you swear or affirm that you will well and truly try the matter in issue between the parties, and give a true verdict according to the law and evidence?
Jury Rule 20:  This rules sets forth a number of preliminary instructions that are required to be given to jurors.  These are to assist the jurors on how to proceed throughout the trial.  The instructions read as:
(1) the issues for trial;
(2) the applicable burdens of proof;
(3) the credibility of witnesses and the manner of weighing the testimony to be received;
(4) that each juror may take notes during the trial and paper shall be provided, but note taking shall not interfere with the attention to the testimony;
(5) the personal knowledge procedure under Rule 24;
(6) the order in which the case will proceed;
(7) that jurors, including alternates, may seek to ask questions of the witnesses by submission of questions in writing;
(8) that jurors, including alternates, are permitted to discuss the evidence among themselves in the jury room during recesses from trial when all are present, as long as they reserve judgment about the outcome of the case until deliberations commence. The court shall admonish jurors not to discuss the case with anyone other than fellow jurors during the trial.
(b) The court shall instruct the jurors before opening statements that until their jury service is complete, they shall not use computers, laptops, cellular telephones, or other electronic communication devices while in attendance at trial, during discussions, or during deliberations, unless specifically authorized by the court. In addition, jurors shall be instructed that when they are not in court they shall not use computers, laptops, cellular telephones, other electronic communication devices, or any other method to:
(1) conduct research on their own or as a group regarding the case;
(2) gather information about the issues in the case;
(3) investigate the case, conduct experiments, or attempt to gain any specialized knowledge about the case;
(4) receive assistance in deciding the case from any outside source;
(5) read, watch, or listen to anything about the case from any source;
(6) listen to discussions among, or received information from, other people about the case; or
(7) talk to any of the parties, their lawyers, any of the witnesses, or members of the media, or anyone else about the case, including posting information, text messaging, email, Internet chat rooms, blogs, or social websites.
(c) It is assumed that the court will cover other matters in the preliminary instructions.
(d) The court shall provide each juror with the written instructions while the court reads them.
Jury Rule 24:  This rule deals with the situation where one of the jurors expresses during trial that they realize they have some personal knowledge about the case they are hearing.  In that instance, the court will individually interview that juror and if their knowledge is regarding a material fact, then the court will replace that juror with one of the alternates.  If there is not an alternate available then the parties may agree to submit the case to the remaining jurors or the case will deemed a mistrial and be reset for trial at a later date.
Jury Rule 25:  This rule is known as the field trip rule.  This rule allows the jury to go to a scene and see in person a scene that is relevant to a case.  The Court can appoint an employee to escort the jury and the parties may attend as well, however, they may not communicate with the jury during the “field trip.”
Jury Rule 26:  This rule deals with the final instructions.  It gives the minimum instructions a court must give as well as making it clear electronic devises must be secured.
Jury Rule 28:  This rule comes into play when the jury is at an impasse and is having a problem reaching a unanimous decision.  When this happens, this rule allows the Court to inquire as to if there is anything that can be done to assist the jury in resolving their impasse.  The court, in conjunction with counsel, can determine what if anything can be done to assist the jury.
Jury Rule 30:  Lastly, this rule designates that the jury must sign the verdict, and then, different then what is portrayed in Hollywood, the judge, not the jury, reads the verdict in open court.  After the verdict is read, either side, may ask the individual jurors to be polled to make sure that was their verdict.
As one can imagine, putting a jury trial together is a tremendous amount of work for the court, the court staff, and the attorneys.  These rules were put in place to give the framework for those involved to try the case in an orderly fashion.  The attorneys at Banks & Brower are experienced trial lawyers.  If you are facing the daunting situation of going to trial, call the Indianapolis Criminal Defense Attorneys at Banks & Brower to assist you.