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Jury Service - An Important Job and a Rewarding Experience
The right to trial by a jury of our fellow citizens is one of our most important rights and is guaranteed by the Constitution of the United States. By serving on a Jury, then, you are helping to guarantee one of our most important freedoms.
Your job as a juror is to listen to all the evidence presented at trial and to "decide the facts" - that is, to decide what really happened. The judge, on the other hand, "decides the law" - that is, makes decisions on legal issues that come up during the trial. For example, the judge may have to decide whether you and the other jurors may hear certain evidence or whether one lawyer may ask a witness a certain question. You should not try to decide these legal issues, sometimes you will even be asked to leave the courtroom while they are being decided. Both your job and that of the judge must be done well if our system of trial by jury is to work. In order to do your job you do not need any special knowledge or ability. It is enough that you keep an open mind, concentrate on the evidence being presented, use your common sense, and be fair and honest.
Finally, you should not be influenced by sympathy or prejudice: it is vital that you be impartial with regard to all people and all ideas.
Many jurors find that it is exciting to learn about this most important system "from the inside", and challenging to deal fairly and thoroughly with the cases they hear. We hope that you, too, find your experience as a juror to be interesting and satisfying.
How You Were Chosen
Your name was selected at random from voter registration records and placed on a list of potential jurors. Next, your answers to the Questionnaire for Jurors were evaluated to make sure that you were eligible for jury service and were not exempt from service. To be eligible, you must be over 18 years of age, a citizen of the United States, a resident of the county in which you are to serve as a juror, able to communicate in the English language and if you have been convicted of a felony, you must have had your civil rights restored. People who meet these requirements may be excused from jury service if they have illnesses that would interfere with their ability to do a good job, would suffer great hardship if required to serve, or are unable to serve for some other reason.
You are here because you were found to be eligible for jury duty and were able to serve. You are now part of the "jury pool", the group of people from which trial juries are chosen.
Selection of the Trial Jury
The first step in the selection of the trial jury is the selection of a "jury panel". When you are selected for a jury panel you will be directed to report, along with other panel members, to a courtroom m which a case is to be heard once a jury is selected. The judge assigned to that case will tell you about the case and will introduce the lawyers and the people involved in the case. You will also take an oath, by which you promise to answer all questions truthfully. Following this explanation of the case and the taking of the oath, the judge and the lawyers will question you and the other members of the panel to find out if you have any personal interest in it, or any feelings that might make it hard for you to be impartial. This process of questioning is called VOIR DIRE, a phrase meaning "to speak the truth".
Many of the questions the judge and lawyers ask you during VOIR DIRE may seem very personal to you, but you should answer them completely and honestly. Remember that the lawyers are not trying to embarrass you, but are trying to make sure that members of the jury do not have opinions or past experiences which might prevent them from making an impartial decision.
During VOIR DIRE the lawyers may ask the judge to excuse you or another member of panel from sitting on the jury for this particular case. This is
called CHALLENGING A JUROR. There are two types of challenges. The first is called a CHALLENGE FOR CAUSE, which means that the lawyer has a specific reason for thinking that the juror would not be able to be impartial. For example, the case may involve the theft of a car. If one of the jurors has had a car stolen and still feels angry or upset about it, the lawyer for the person accused of the theft could ask that the juror be excused for that reason. There is no limit on the number of panel members that the lawyers may have excused for cause.
The second type of challenge is called a PEREMPTORY CHALLENGE, which means that the lawyer does not have to state a reason for asking that the juror be excused. Like challenges for cause, peremptory challenges are designed to allow lawyers to do their best to assure that their clients will have a fair trial. Unlike challenges for cause, however, the number of peremptory challenges is limited.
Please tr> not to take offence if you are excused from serving on a particular jury. The lawyer who challenges you is not suggesting that you lack ability or honesty, merely that there is some doubt about your impartiality because of the circumstances of the particular case and your past experiences. If you are excused, you will either return to the juror waiting area and wait to be called for another panel or will be excused from service, depending on the local procedures in the county in which you live.
Those jurors who have not been challenged become the jury for the case. Depending on the kind of case, there will be either six or twelve jurors. The judge may also allow selection of one or more alternate jurors, who will serve if one of the jurors is unable to do so because of illness or some other reason.
Your Working Day
The number of the days you work as a juror and your working hours depend on the jury selection system in the county in which you live. Working hours may also be varied by the judge to accommodate witnesses coming from out of town or for other reasons.
Regardless of the length of your working day, one thing that may strike you is the amount of waiting. For example, you may have to wait a long while before you are called for a jury panel. You also may be kept waiting in the jury room during trial while the judge and the lawyers settle a question of law that has come up.
This waiting may seem like a waste of time to you and also may make it seem as if the court system isn't working very well. In reality, however, there are good reasons for the waiting you do both before and during trial.
Your having to wait before trial is important for the efficient operation of the system. Because there are many cases to be heard and because trials are expensive, judges encourage people to come to an agreement in their case before trial. These agreements, called SETTLEMENTS, can occur at any time, even a few minutes before the trial is scheduled to begin. This means that it is impossible to know exactly how many trials there will be on a particular day or when they will start. Jurors are kept waiting, therefore, so that they are immediately available for the next case that goes to trial.
Your waiting during trial helps assure the fairness of the proceedings. You will remember that the jurors decide the facts and that the judge decides the law. If you are sent out of the courtroom during trial, it is probably because a legal issue has come up that must be decided before more evidence can be presented to you. You are sent out because the judge decides that you should not hear the discussion about the law, because it might interfere with your ability to decide the facts in an impartial way. Sometimes the judge will explain why you were sent out, but sometimes he may not be able to do so. Please be assured, however, that these delays during trial, explained or not, are important to the fairness of the trial.
In any case, judges and personnel do whatever they can to minimize the waiting before and during trial. Your understanding is appreciated.
TASK 2. Give Russian equivalents Jor the following words and translate the definitions info Russian
CASE - any proceeding, action, cause, lawsuit or controversy initiated through the court system by filing a complaint, petition or information.
WITNESS - person who testifies under oath in court regarding what was seen, heard or otherwise observed.
TRIAL - the presentation of evidence in court to a trier of facts who applies the applicable law to those facts and then decides the case.
EVIDENCE - a form of proof legally presented at a trial through witnesses, records, documents, etc.
TASK 3, Paraphraze the following words and expressions and explain their meanings.
- fellow citizens;
- to deal thoroughly with the cases;
- to exempt from jury service;
- to meet some requirements;
- impartial decision;
- to be available for case;
- legal issues;
- common sense;
- to select at random;
- eligible for service;
- to have one's civil rights restored;
- to be excused from jury service;
- to accommodate a witness;
- delays during trial.
TASK 4. Answer the questions.
1. What is the job of a juror?
2. What is the job of a judge?
3. What qualities should a good juror have?
4. What requirements should one meet to be eligible for jury service?
5. What are the reasons for a person to be excused from jury service?
6. What is the aim of VOLR DIRE!
1. What is CHALLENGING A JUROR?
8. What are the types of challenge?
9. What does a juror's working day depend on?
10. Who are alternative jurors?
TASK 5. Read the text.
Kinds of Cases
As a juror, you may sit on a criminal case, a civil case, or both.
Civil Cases. Civil cases are usually disputes between or among private citizens, corporations, governments, government agencies, and other organizations. Most often, the party bringing the suit is asking for money damages for some wrong that has been done. For example, a tenant may sue a landlord for failure to fix a leaky roof, or a landlord may sue a tenant for failure
to pay rent. People who have been injured may sue a person or a company they feel is responsible for the injury.
The party bringing the suit is called the PLAINTIFF; the party being sued is called the DEFENDANT. There may be many plaintiffs or many defendants in the same case.
The plaintiff starts the lawsuit by filing a paper called a COMPLAINT, in which the case against the defendant is stated. The next paper filed is usually the ANSWER, in which the defendant disputes what the plaintiff has said in the complaint. The defendant may also feel that there has been a wrong committed by the plaintiff, in which case a COUNTERCLAIM will be filed along with the answer. It is up to the plaintiff to prove the case against the defendant. In each civil case the judge tells the jury the extent to which the plaintiff must prove the case. This is called the plaintiffs BURDEN OF PROOF, a burden that the plaintiff must meet in order to win. In most civil cases the plaintiffs burden is to prove the case by a PREPONDERANCE OF EVIDENCE, that is, that the plaintiffs version of what happened in the case is more probably true than not true.
Jury verdicts do not need to be unanimous in civil cases. Only ten jurors need to agree upon a verdict if there are 12 jurors: five must agree if there are six jurors.
Criminal Cases. A criminal case is brought by the state or by a city or county against a person or persons accused of having committed a crime. The state, city, or county is called the PLAINTIFF; the accused person is called the DEFENDANT. The charge against the defendant is called an INFORMATION or a COMPLAINT. The defendant has pleaded not guilty and you should presume the defendant's innocence throughout the entire trial unless the plaintiff proves the defendant guilty. The plaintiffs burden of proof is greater in a criminal case than in a civil case. In each criminal case you hear the judge will tell you all the elements of the crime that the plaintiff must prove; the plaintiff must prove each of these elements BEYOND REASONABLE DOUBT before the defendant can be found guilty.
In criminal cases the verdict must be unanimous, that is, all jurors must agree that the defendant is guilty in order to overcome the presumption of innocence.
TASK 6. Give Russian equivalents for the following words and translate the definitions into Russian.
DEFENDANT - (crim.) person charged with a crime, (civ.) person or entity against whom a civil action is brought. ACTION - proceeding taken in court synonymous to case, suit, lawsuit.
PREPONDERANCE OF EVIDENCE means that the weight of evidence presented by one side is more convincing to the trier of facts than the evidence presented by the opposing side.
PLAINTIFF - the party who begins an action, complains or sues.
COUNTERCLAIM - claim presented by a defendant in opposition to the claim of the plaintiff.
COMPLAINT - (crim.) formal written charge that a person has committed a criminal offence.
(civ.) initial document filed by a plaintiff which starts the claim against the defendant.
TASK 7. Give English equivalents for the following words and expressions.
- подать иск;
- начать (возбудить) дело;
- показания (2);
- судебное разбирательство (3);
- совершить преступление;
- признать виновным;
- заслушать показания;
- исключить из состава присяжных;
- восстановить в гражданских правах;
- люди, замешанные в деле;
- частные лица;
- материальный ущерб;
- ответственность за ущерб;
- подать иск;
- ответный иск;
- обвинен в преступлении;
- заявить о невиновности;
- единодушное решение присяжных;
- вопросы права;
- урегулирование дела;
- принять присягу.
TASK 8. Answer the questions.
2. Who is a PLAINTIFF?
3. Who is a DEFENDANT!
4. What is a COMPLAINT!
6. What is a COUNTERCLAIM!
I. What is a BURDEN OF PROOF1
8. What is a CRIMINAL CASE7
9. What is PREPONDERANCE OF EVIDENCE!
10. How many jurors are necessary to agree upon the verdict in a criminal case?
I1. Who is the plaintiff in a criminal case?
TASK 9. Read the texts.
In addition to the lawyers and the judge, three other people will play an important role in the trial. The COURT REPORTER, who sits close to the witnesses and the judge, puts down every word that is spoken during the trial and also may record the proceedings on tape. The CLERK, who sits right below the judge, keeps track of all documents and exhibits and notes down important events in the trial. The BAILIFF helps to keep the trial running smoothly. The jury is in the custody of the bailiff, who sees to the jurors comfort and convenience and helps them if they are having any problems related to jury service.
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