|Questions & Answers|
|Q: Why me? |
A: Why not? The court keeps a "master list" of eligible jurors compiled from lists of voters, motor vehicle licenses, and other sources. When it has a jury term coming up, the court asks that a certain number of jurors be randomly selected for jury duty. Jurors must be at least 18 years old; U.S. citizens; North Dakota and county residents; able to read, speak and understand English reasonably well; physically and mentally able with reasonable accommodation to serve; and free from any loss of civil rights because of imprisonment for a felony.
|Q: Do I have to serve?|
A: Yes - most of the time. State law requires all qualified North Dakotans to serve as jurors. The court very reluctantly excuses persons from jury duty. A lack of any of the qualifications listed earlier will cause a person to be disqualified for jury duty. In addition, the court will consider excuses upon satisfactory showing of undue hardship, extreme inconvenience, and public necessity.
|Q: How long do I have to serve? |
A: In most instances, not any longer than 10 court days in any two year period.
|Q: Do I get paid?
A: Yes. Jurors receive $25 for the first half day and $50 for serving the whole day. Jurors receive $50 for each additional day served. The mileage rate is .54 per mile. Coroner's inquest jurors get $10 a day.
|Q: How about my job?|
A: State law protects your job. Your employer can't fire you, demote you, threaten you or otherwise hassle you because of jury service.
|Q: Now that I've been summoned for jury duty, what's next?|
A: Next is to report to jury duty at the court or other location indicated in the summons. Failure to do so can lead to all kinds of unpleasant things like contempt of court charges, fines, and even jail terms.
Avoid Extremes in Clothing
|Q: What should I wear?|
A: There are no strict or prescribed dress codes. Some courts suggest dressing as you would for church, a business meeting or a social function. Dress comfortably, but avoid extremes in dress; for instance, no tuxedos or ragged jean cutoffs.
|Q: Will I be on a jury all the time?|
A: It's possible but unlikely. You could be "challenged" off all the juries during your service, or you could serve on just one case that might last several days. Most likely you will serve as a juror for two or three cases during your tour of duty.
From time to time during a trial a judge will be called on to make rulings on many matters such as motions, objections by the opposing attorneys, the admissibility of certain evidence, testimony to be considered by the jury, etc. These rulings are part of the trial and should not be considered as reflections on either side's case. When these rulings are directed to you as jurors, they must be followed.
|Q: What is this "challenge" business? Will I have to answer a lot of private and personal questions? |
A: Not really, but you will have to answer some questions. All the jurors called for a particular term are in the courtroom at the start of a trial. The clerk of court randomly selects names and the persons take their places in the jury box. When a sufficient number have been selected, they are sworn in for jury examination. This examination is called the voir dire (pronounced vwor deer) examination and is usually conducted by the lawyers in the case, although sometimes a judge will participate or conduct it.
The judge or one of the lawyers begins voir dire with a short explanation of the case. While this is not proof or evidence, you should pay attention since this is the first information you'll receive about the case.
The examination seeks to find out if a prospective juror has a personal interest in the case, or has any prejudice or preconceived notions about the case that might make it impossible to serve as an impartial juror. Examples might be a juror related to someone involved with the case, or who strongly believes that all shoplifters should be jailed for a year. In such a case, the juror can be challenged by one of the lawyers and the court will excuse him or her from the jury panel. Another prospective juror is then called.
There are two types of challenges. One is for cause, such as was just described. Each side has an unlimited number of these. If the judge thinks a cause is sufficient, the juror will be excused. The other type of challenge is called peremptory. The number of these allowed each side ranges from four in most civil cases to ten in murder cases. No reasons have to be given for these challenges.
Being challenged off a jury panel is absolutely no reflection on a prospective juror. It does not mean the lawyer or the court believes you are not qualified to sit on the case. It merely means that for this particular case a lawyer for one of the sides, or the judge, believes you may not be well suited. You could well be selected as a juror in the next case before the court.
|Q: What happens if I'm not picked for the jury or am challenged off a particular jury panel?|
A: Persons not selected for the jury will be excused by the court for the day, subject to further call in other cases. There could be other cases listed for later that day in the same court, or by another judge in the same courthouse. In some of the larger courthouses and counties, it is possible to have two or three jury trials going on at the same time.
|Q: How big are the juries?|
A: This depends on the type of case. Usually, a jury will not be less than 6 or more than 12.
|Q: What is the difference between civil and criminal cases?|
A: In criminal cases, the state is charging a person or persons with violations of criminal law. A prosecutor, usually a state's attorney, represents the government. The person accused of the crime is the defendant, who is usually represented by a private attorney, not a public official. A civil case, on the other hand, is a dispute between the two persons or organizations concerning their respective rights. One party sues to determine these rights. This is the plaintiff. The persons being sued are the defendants. Civil suits usually involve money or property, and no criminal violations are involved.
|Q: What type of oath will I have to take as a juror? |
"Under the pains and penalties of perjury."
|Q: As a juror, what do I do during a trial?|
A: Your basic job is to pay attention. If you have trouble hearing or seeing, let the judge know. When in the jury box, you will not be allowed to read, talk to other jurors, or otherwise divert your attention from courtroom proceedings. Generally, be alert and courteous, and remain impartial.
All of the exhibits received in evidence will be given to you at the end of the trial. Some of the exhibits may also be read or shown to you during the trial.
|Q: As a juror, will I be allowed to ask questions of the witnesses?|
A: Generally this is the obligation and responsibility of the attorneys. In some civil cases the judge may permit jurors to submit questions in writing.
|Q: As a juror, will I be allowed to take notes during the trial?|
A: This is a matter within the discretion of the judge. However, unless you are provided with note pads and pencils by the bailiff, it will generally not be allowed.
1. Plaintiff, or the prosecutor in a criminal trial, opens the trial and presents case.
2. Defense next offers its case and evidence.
3. Both sides then offer rebutting testimony and evidence.
4. Each side next presents its closing arguments.
5. Plaintiff or the prosecutor offers concluding arguments.
6. Judge gives the jury its instructions and charges.
|Q: Will I have to stay overnight?|
A: Occasionally, but it is rare in North Dakota. If the trial lasts more than one day, you usually will be allowed to go home overnight, but will be expected to be back on time for the start of the next day's proceedings. The trial can't continue until all jurors are present, so if you are tardy you will hold up all the proceedings.
|Q: Do I have to live like a hermit during a trial?|
A: No. But, you must not discuss the case with anyone during the trial, not even the other jurors, and you should avoid reading about it in newspapers or listening to or watching news broadcasts about it. Don't discuss it with court personnel or any of the parties involved. When the trial is over and the judge sends you to the deliberation room, then and only then should you discuss the case freely with the other jurors in order to reach a verdict.
No Outside Study
|Q: Should I "bone up" on the case on my own by some outside reading or investigation?|
A: Absolutely not! As a juror you must reach your decision only on the evidence and other matters presented during the trial. If the occasion arises where it is necessary to go out of court to view a scene or listen to some testimony, this will be done under court supervision and by all the jurors together.
|Q: Do all the verdicts have to be unanimous, like I see on TV?|
A jury is considered "hung" when, after a time deemed proper by the court, it appears there is no reasonable probability the jurors can agree on a verdict. This rarely happens in North Dakota.
|Q: What happens if a jury member gets sick, dies, or otherwise becomes unavailable during the trial?|
A: In civil cases, the parties can agree to accept the verdict of the remaining members. Sometimes (usually in longer civil or criminal cases) an extra (alternate) juror is impaneled, and he or she would take the missing juror's place. In criminal cases, if no alternate is available, a mistrial could be declared and the case begun again with a new jury.
|Q: I don't know anything about law. How will I know what to decide in a complicated case?|
A: At the end of every case, both civil and criminal, the judge gives the jury instructions. These instructions are intended to tell the jury what its choices are and to clarify the decisions it must make (some judges give part of the instructions at the beginning of a case).
If you cannot agree on what a witness may have said and it is important, the judge may reconvene the parties and allow the testimony to be read to you by the court reporter. If any juror needs some matter clarified, a note can be sent to the judge through the bailiff.
|Q: Do I have to tell how I voted or what went on in the jury room?|
A: Not really. The presiding juror, who is elected by the jurors when the jury begins its deliberations, announces the verdict in court. Since all decisions must be unanimous, it's pretty well known how each person voted. However, a lawyer may request that a jury be polled after the verdict is announced. Each juror must then stand and announce how he or she voted. If by chance there is a change of a vote, then the jury must go back and consider the matter again. No juror has to say anything to anyone after the trial about what went on in the jury room, or why a particular decision was reached. This includes inquiries from court personnel, the opposing parties or their attorneys, or the news media. There is no prohibition against talking about it, either.
|Glossary of Legal Terms|
| chambers - Private office or room of a judge.|
clerk of court - Court official who keeps track of court files, records, and exhibits, and who administers oaths.
complainant - Synonymous with "plaintiff."
complaint - The first or initial pleading on the part of the complainant, or plaintiff, in a civil action.
court reporter - A person who by shorthand or stenograph takes down testimony during court proceedings.
counterclaim - A claim presented by a defendant against a plaintiff.
cross-examination - The questioning of a witness in a trial, or in the taking of a deposition, by the party opposed to the one who produced the witness.
defendant - In a civil case, the person being sued. In a criminal case, the person charged with having committed a crime.
direct examination - The first questioning of a witness by the party on whose behalf the witness was called.
impeachment of witness - An attack on the credibility of a witness.
inadmissible - That which, under the established rules of evidence, cannot be admitted or received.
instruction - A direction given by the judge to the jury concerning the law of the case.
jury - A certain number of people, selected according to law, and sworn to inquire of certain matters of fact, and declare the truth upon evidence presented to it.
leading question - A question that suggests to the witness the answer desired.
mistrial - An erroneous or invalid trial; a trial that cannot stand in law because of lack of jurisdiction, wrong drawing of jurors, or disregard of some other fundamental requirement.
objection - The act of a party during a trial to call the court's attention to some matter or proceeding that may be improper. Immediately thereafter the judge determines the validity of the objection and either overrules or sustains it.
panel - A list of jurors to serve in a particular court, or for the trial of a particular action; denotes either the whole body of persons summoned as jurors or those selected by the clerk by lot.
plaintiff - A person who brings an action; the party who complains or sues in a personal action and is so named, on the record.
prosecutor - The lawyer who argues the state's case against persons charged with violating state law. This is usually the State's Attorney or an assistant.
redirect examination - Follows cross-examination, and is conducted by the party who first examined the witness.
rest - A party is said to "rest" or "rest his/her case" when all the evidence the party intends to offer has been presented.
subpoena (su-pe'na) - A process to cause a witness to appear and give testimony before a court or magistrate.
testimony - Evidence given by a witness, under oath.
tort - An injury or wrong committed, either with or without force, to the person or property of another.
transcript - The official record of proceedings in a trial or hearing.
voir dire (vwor deer) - To speak the truth. The phrase denotes the preliminary examination the court may make of one presented as a witness or juror, as to the qualifications of the witness or juror.