Maryland Jury Service Video
Each day all over Maryland, our courts call on thousands of citizens to serve as jurors, people like you and me. Jurors uphold and protect one of our most basic rights, a fair trial by a fair jury. Join me now for a quick look at how your jury service will work.
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Jury service is one of the most important civic obligations that citizens have. To be available to serve on a jury is both a privilege and an obligation for all Marylanders.
It's normal to feel anxious or reluctant about jury service. Jury service takes us away from our jobs, our families and our daily routines.
Next to exercising our right to vote, serving as a juror is the most significant way we can participate in our government. When we serve as jurors, we ensure that justice is delivered for the people, by the people.
Jury service is a privilege of citizenship. A citizen may not be excluded from jury service due to color, disability, economic status, national origin, race, religion or gender.
You have already been asked to complete a questionnaire to make sure that you meet the legal qualifications to serve as a juror and are not exempt from jury service. If you have not returned your completed questionnaire, you will be asked to complete one today.
Each trial has six parts: jury selection, opening statements, presentation of evidence, jury instructions, closing arguments and jury deliberations.
How was I selected for jury service today? Each Maryland circuit court creates a source pool of potential jurors from those registered to vote and from those persons with driver's licenses or identification cards issued by the Motor Vehicle Administration.
How should I dress for jury service? You're not expected to go out and buy new clothes for jury service, but you should dress in a way that shows proper respect for the court and for everyone involved in the proceedings. So your clothes should be neat and not too revealing. Also, because you may spend time in a jury deliberation room, care should be taken to avoid overwhelming your fellow jurors with any strong perfumes or aftershave.
You should avoid wearing work uniforms and any symbols or wording on clothes such as t-shirts that are likely to create a message, humorous or otherwise. After all, deciding cases is serious business. Remember, you are here today as a potential juror, but you or someone close to you may be in front of a jury another day.
- Wear clothing that is neat and not too revealing
- Avoid strong fragrances
- Avoid symbols or wording
Why are we stuck waiting around for so long? No one likes to wait, and judges and court officials don't want to waste your time. But sometimes it is unavoidable. There are many different reasons why waiting may be necessary.
Sometimes, even when a jury panel is ready, the courtroom may be busy with other matters, including discussing how to resolve the case by settlement or plea, without a jury. When that happens at the last minute, it's usually because you and your fellow jurors were here ready to decide the case. So even waiting in the jury assembly room serves a useful purpose in our justice system.
The courtroom players. Let's go inside the courtroom and see where everyone will sit. In a criminal trial, sitting at one table, the State of Maryland represented by a State's Attorney or Assistant State's Attorney, accuses the defendant of one or more crimes. The defendant, usually represented by an attorney, sits at the other table.
In a criminal trial, the attorneys and judge will select 12 jurors to decide if the defendant committed the crime or crimes charged. It is the role of the jury to determine guilt or innocence. If the defendant is found guilty, the question of sentencing is left to the judge and not the jury.
In a civil trial, on one side we have a plaintiff, a party who claims to have been wronged, and on the other side, a defendant, who allegedly committed the wrongdoing. In a civil trial, the jury is not finding innocence or guilt. The attorneys will select six jurors to decide the legal issues between the parties.
The judge may decide to allow the selection of alternate jurors who will be available throughout the course of the trial to take the place of any juror who becomes unable to continue to serve as a juror in the case.
Some of the people in the courtroom will be the same, whether the case is a criminal or civil trial. We have the judge who is responsible for the conduct of the trial in accordance with the law. The judge assures a fair trial for the parties and gives instructions to the jury on the law that must be followed. The judge determines what evidence should be considered by the jury in deciding the case.
Seated near the judge will be the court clerk. The clerk will swear the jury panel and the final jury as well as each witness who testifies. The clerk is also responsible for all the exhibits and for keeping the case file in proper order. In every trial, the proceedings must be recorded fully and accurately. How the trial is recorded differs from one courtroom to the next throughout Maryland. In some courtrooms, you will see a court reporter using stenographic equipment to record the trial, sometimes with a computer that the judge can use to review questions, testimony and objections. In other courtrooms, the proceedings are recorded through an audio or video device.
Also, in a courtroom, you'll find other court officers, the sheriff and the bailiff, the people charged with maintaining order in the courtroom and attending to the jury according to the judge's instructions.
And now you know all the participants, except for one vital party, the jury. That's going to be your role. As a member of the jury, you will consider and decide the case fairly and impartially based on the evidence presented in the courtroom and the judge's instruction on the law.
Jury selection. In Maryland, the judge usually conducts the questioning of potential jurors. This process is sometimes called “voir dire”. Voir dire is a legal term derived from old French and means “to see, to say”.
You will first be sworn by the clerk to tell the truth in all the answers you give. You must answer the questions truthfully to help the judge and attorneys determine whether your experiences, opinions or knowledge will make you the best juror for the case. No one intends to embarrass you or unduly pry into your personal affairs, but you must answer the questions asked completely and truthfully so that the judge and the parties are confident that the jury selected will try the issues fairly and impartially.
If you believe that there is some reason why you cannot serve as a juror in the case, bring the matter to the attention of the judge prior to the conclusion of jury selection. The judge and attorneys will want to hear from you and perhaps ask you questions about your concerns.
The judge may excuse some potential jurors “for cause”, meaning that the judge finds a good reason for excusing that juror from that trial. In addition, each side has a certain number of preliminary challenges or strikes, meaning the right to excuse a potential juror without giving a reason.
You may be excused, but please do not feel offended. Your honesty and integrity are not in question. In fact, you may be excused from one trial, but selected to serve as a juror in another case.
Once the parties complete jury selection, the clerk will administer the oath to the jurors and the trial will begin.
Many trials will conclude on that same day. If not, you will return home at the end of each day.
The judge will caution you not to read or listen to news accounts of the trial or to discuss the case with family members or anyone, not even your fellow jurors.
You must not communicate about the case with anyone over the internet, by phone or other means, or seek information about the case, parties or attorneys from another source. You should not comment about the case on social media sites, blogs or in discussions with anyone.
It is important that the case be decided only upon the evidence presented in the courtroom with all the jurors present, unless otherwise advised by the judge. Jurors may only discuss the case with each other during deliberation.
Opening statements. An opening statement is an introduction by an attorney of what they expect to happen during the trial. The side with the burden of proof goes first. In a criminal trial, that will be the State's Attorney. In a civil trial, that will be the plaintiff.
The defense attorney may, but does not have to make an opening statement and sometimes will wait until after the first side presents its evidence. In either case, the opening statement is not evidence, but is merely intended to give you an overview of the trial to come.
Presentation of evidence. The third part of the trial is the presentation of evidence. This is the part most of us think of when we hear the word trial. The presentation of evidence may include witness testimony and exhibits. If either side objects to offered evidence, the judge will decide whether the offered evidence is legally admissible for your consideration.
Closing arguments. The last part of the trial in the courtroom is the closing argument of the attorneys. Like the opening statements, the closing arguments are not evidence. During the closing arguments, attorneys have the opportunity to try to persuade you as to how they hope you will weigh the evidence in accordance with the judge's instructions on the law and what they believe your verdict should be.
Jury instructions. After you have heard all of the evidence, the judge will instruct you on the law that you must follow in deciding the case. The judge will read these instructions to the jury and may provide the jury with a written copy of the instructions.
Jury deliberation and verdict. Finally, the case will be in your hands. The judge will excuse you to your jury room to deliberate and reach your verdict. A foreperson appointed by the judge will help to facilitate discussions among jurors. Unless otherwise instructed by the judge, the verdict of the jury must be unanimous, which means that all jurors must agree on the verdict.
When you're ready, the foreperson will inform the court that the jury has reached a verdict. The verdict will be announced in the courtroom and each juror may be asked whether the verdict stated by the foreperson or judge is, in fact, the juror’s verdict.
When you serve on the jury, you are not just fulfilling a vital civic obligation, you're making a difference in someone else's life. That participation by each of us makes the administration of justice in our democracy and community strong.
By fulfilling your civic obligation to serve on a jury, you ensure that each of us has the right, when needed, to ask a jury to decide our disputes and determine our innocence or guilt. Your participation guarantees the right to a fair and impartial jury for all. Thank you for your service.