The majority of people called for jury duty on any given day will not actually serve. Counties must summon more jurors then will actually be used because it is difficult to predict precisely how many jurors will be needed on a given day. However, counties are working to decrease the number of excess jurors they call in each day, and are instituting procedures to foster virtually up-to-the minute counting of how many jurors are needed. These counties often use telephone or web-based information lines which jurors may access the night before their scheduled service to see if their service is still required. Check with the Circuit Court Clerk’s office.
In any event, most jurors likely will spend some time waiting to be called before a judge and lawyers for voir dire (i.e. questioning of the jury panel). This may be frustrating, but when you are waiting to be called or questioned, please remember that if you were to be involved in a trial, whether civil or criminal, you would probably want the court and the lawyers to take their time picking a good jury, so be patient. This is the time to pull out a book or project, socialize with your fellow citizens, or catch up on some rest.
You will be called in groups or “panels” to be questioned by the judge and/or lawyers involved in a particular case. Listen to the questions and answer as honestly and fully as possible. Your answers will help the lawyers decide whether to select you to serve on their case. Do not be insulted if you are not chosen; jury duty selection is not a science.
If you are selected to serve on a jury, the judge presiding over the trial likely will give you instructions about your responsibilities at the start of the trial. These instructions probably will include prohibitions against discussing the trial or its proceedings until the trial ends and deliberations begin and against conversations with the judge, the lawyers or any parties. Follow the judge’s instructions – they are designed to ensure that the trial proceeds efficiently and without error.
The judge also is likely to provide some guidelines about the role of jurors during the trial. As the judge will surely instruct the jury, you need to pay attention to all of the witness testimony and evidence offered during the trial. This includes evaluating for yourself which witnesses were credible or trustworthy. Following testimony and presentation of evidence, the judge will instruct the jury about the law that governs the case. The judge’s instructions will guide the jury in making its decision.