Jury Duty

I got a summons for jury duty in the mail today. It’s set for mid-July. The questionnaire was pretty normal, but why do they ask for your race? :confused: I don’t think most of my answers will cause a problem, but some might. When asked if I had any moral/religious/ethical beliefs that might prevent me from rendering a fair verdict in a criminal trial I checked yes (since I’d never vote to sentence someone to death although capital punishment itself wasn’t mentioned). I also indicated that I might have trouble following the judge’s instructions to render a verdict according to the law (I’m aware of jury nulification and wouldn’t hesitate to refuse to convict someone of a law I disaprove off even if they broke it). So what’s voir dire like? Will it piss off the judge if I mention jury nulification?

I suppose they ask for race in the interest of fairness. So the black guy won’t get sentenced by an all white jury, etc.


If there’s a blank on a form I’ll check other and write human. This form had no blank so I didn’t answer the question.

Obviously, voir dire practices will vary depending on the jurisdiction, but you may very well be asked to swear/affirm to answer truthfully any questions asked of you. If that’s the case, and if you take such things seriously (I do), you will need to tell the court (not just the judge) your views on jury nullification if asked. This may take the form of one lawyer or the other asking if any of the potential jurors have a problem in that area; should that happen, you would indicate that you do, and you would be asked to elaborate. Or there may be a more open-ended question (such as, “do any of you have an issue which would preclude your giving a fair and impartial verdict?”).

When I was called in February, I was only a potential in one case, and I don’t think either attorney wanted me on the jury — I have definite issues with drug dealing next to a school, and I had to admit that I might have a problem with otherwise-unsubstantiated police testimony. They weren’t the easiest things to talk about, but as I said, I do take oaths seriously.

I had jury duty this November. It consisted of two weeks of calling a phone number every day after 4 p.m. and finding out they didn’t want me. Now I’m off the hook for at least two years. Easy as pie!

I don’t know about jury nullification, but I was on a trial jury last year for a case in which the defendant could easily have gotten the death penalty. But the prosecutors know that people are loath to render a verdict that will result in the death penalty, so they chose not to pursue it in this case.

(Note that I didn’t know that at the time. All I was told during voir dire was that the death penalty wasn’t an issue here, so I assumed that we were just being asked to render a verdict and the punishment (including the possible death penalty) would be decided at a later date based on our verdict. We were given a choice between first- and second-degree murder, and were also asked to decide on the special circumstance of “lying in wait.” There was clear evidence of premeditation and lying in wait, so I gritted my teeth and voted for first degree murder, believing that I was sentencing the guy to death. After we told the bailiff that we had a verdict, we had to wait an hour or so while they assembled the court, so we chatted, as we were previously not allowed to do. It was only at this point I found out there was no chance he would receive the death penalty.)

I don’t see how Jury Nullification is a problem here: it exists precisely to ensure a fair and impartial verdit when the law is wrong.

Judges HATE it, IME. I had a judge throw me off a jury when I told him (in response to a voir dire question) that I would not give up my right of jury nullifcation.

That’s like saying murder exists precisely ‘cause some guys just needs a killin’. But the point that’s being made is that the only issue is how far you’re willing to lie under oath. If you plan to nullify, or consider nullification, you have to be willing to lie during voir dire about your beliefs about jury nullification, because you’ve been asked a question as to which an honest response would require you to disclose those ideas; you’ll have to lie during deliberations; you’ll have to lie if the jury’s polled, and you’ll have to lie in any post-verdict interviews. Some people may be comfortable taking oaths, and affirming things, and then violating those oaths for their own personal ends. Some aren’t. Me, personally? People like that shouldn’t go anywhere near jury duty. But enough of a hijack.

Dewey Finn, only a jury can impose the death penalty. If death is on the line, the court will “death-qualify” a jury. During voir dire, they ask whether you could impose the death penalty, and excuse those jurors who say they can’t do it. The upshot of that, of course, is that your jury tends to be more conservative, which is a boon to the prosecution. Sometimes (although I’ve heard of it only rarely), there will be separate juries: one for guilt and one for penalty. If the first jury agrees the defendant is guilty of a death-eligible crime, that jury will be excused and another jury will be impanelled solely to determine whether the defendant should die. So it’s relatively safe to say that you’ll never find yourself on a jury where death is unexpectedly at issue – there’ll be big, bright, neon, flashing warning signs all over the place.

alphaboi867, I suspect that they ask about race to ensure that the jury pool is racially balanced. Note that you’re not entitled to a jury of your race; you are entitled to a jury pool that is representative of the community. So it’s perfectly acceptable, all else being equal, to have a defendant of one race sentenced by a jury of another race, as long as the pool from which the jury was drawn was fair.

No. The question asked was, “do any of you have an issue which would preclude your giving a fair and impartial verdict?” Jury nullification is entirely compatible with that. Sometimes it’s the law that’s unfair or partial or both. And it’s up to the jury to ensure that a just verdict is delivered.

It’s up to the jury to ensure that a just verdict is delivered…UNDER THE LAW. Are you saying one would be justified in finding every drug dealer not-guilty regardless of evidence just because they disagreed with drug laws? I don’t think that’s how the system is supposed to work. :dubious:

Yeah. I was called in for a jury pool but put at the end of the line. Let me tell you, after hearing how incredibly stupid the jury pool was, if I ever have problems, I’m asking for a bench trial.

One one hand I damn near opened my mouth to put an end to some of the ignorance. On the other, I was afraid I’d talk myself right into a seat on the jury.

I just got summoned for jury duty too. I’m supposed to show up on the 18th. I’ve always wanted to serve on a jury. I hope I get a trial. I think it would be an interesting experience.

It is, and IMHO it’s one of the more important civic duties that I’ve had. I don’t mean that it’s fun or easy, but it’s really serious.

Having served I have some very strong opinions on the matter. If anyone is summoned for jury duty and they cannot honestly swear that they will listen to the evidence and render their decision based soley on the evidence they should say that right off the bat and get their ass out of the courtroom.

If you don’t think that something should be illegal, there’s a method to get the laws changed (lobby, petition, vote, etc). Please don’t go into a jury room with a hidden agenda, that’s a good way to destroy confidence in our legal system That’s not directed at you Dio, it’s to everyone in general.

I don’t think I’d be down for jury nullification. If a case involved a law I really disagreed with I’d say so during voir dire. I think it would be a good exercise for me to really try to be as objective as possible, make the prosecution prove its case and vote convict if they do. I might be a pain in the ass during deliberations, though.

From the several times I have served on juries the judge always gives the jury a brief lecture that goes something like this:
“There are two judges in this case. I am the judge of the law, you the jury are the judge of the facts. I determine if the law is followed, you determine the truthfulness of each of the witness and determine the facts of the case.”
The jury does not have the right to change the law. Jury nullification is not a “right” given to a jury, it is a perversion of the legal process. If you cannot support the law, you owe it to the court and the other jurors to be honest and upfront about it.

[personal anecdote] It was during voir dire for a jury for a slip and fall case. As part of the process each side gets up and tells a brief bit about their case. The plaintiff’s lawyer said that his client an elderly man had fallen in a supermarket and suffered injuries. He was suing the supermarket chain. During these comments the lawyer said that his client had grabbed a cardboard fruit display to keep himself from falling but the fruit display was negligent. As a result of the negligence of the display his client was injured. Anyway at the end of the day, I was on the panel and we were just about ready to hear testimony.
At 2:30 AM the next morning I found myself wide awake thinking how could a piece of cardboard be negligent? In my 3 watt brain, negligence is something that can only be attributed to a human, not a piece of cardboard. After think about this for over 2 hours, I got up and wrote the judge a note explaining about how I could not assign negligence to a piece of cardboard. I could see how it might be negligently placed, or assembled, but I could not see how cardboard could itself be negligent. I told the judge that I could not be 100% impartial if that statement of the lawyer’s was allowed to stand. I asked to be excused. The next morning I gave the note to the bailiff and asked him to pass it to the judge. When the jury was admitted, The judge thanked me for my honesty and excused me back to the jury room.[/pa]

Be upfront.

I wish I could serve on a jury. Like Diogenes, I feel like this is an important part of my civic duty. It wouldn’t really even interfere with my life… I’m pretty darn flexible. But, I’ve been a registered voter and driver and everything since I turned 18 (that was 25 years ago) and I’ve never been called. How does a gal get noticed, anyhow?

I’m pretty clear on not using the system to advance my own ideas, and I’ve always been one to follow the laws and work for change from within the system. Does anybody know how they find the pools of juries?

I never was called for jury duty until I was almost 50 years old. In the 11 years since I have been called 6 times, served on 3 juries (2 criminal, 1 civil) and served for a year & a half (one day a week) on a federal grand jury. So…maybe your luck will turn. And yes, all have been interesting experiences. And you do meet the DUMBEST people as well as the most interesting (sadly some of the former being the attorneys!)

I’m almost the same age as you and I was starting to wonder if my name had fallen under a file cabinet or something, then a couple of weeks ago came the summons in the mail. Hang in there. You’ll probly get one sooner or later.