Right of jurors and uncalled witnesses to speak out at trials

  1. In an old episode of Quincy, M.E. they had him as a juror in a criminal trial in which he asked questions of the witnesses. (Ignore for the moment how unrealistic it is for an M.E. working for the county coroner to be seated on a jury). I understand this isn’t too unusual in a grand jury, but this was a trial jury. Are jurors really allowed to shout out questions to the witnesses? In all jurisdictions that have jury trials, or only some? Does it happen much in practice?

  2. Let’s say I’m a witness to a crime, and that I expect to be called by either the prosecution or defense, but that for whatever reason, I am not called. (Maybe counsel is incompetent, maybe both sides fear what I might say on the stand. Whatever. But let’s just assume that the judge has not ruled against my being called to testify.) If I think the jury deserves to hear my testimony, what should I do? Do I have the right to force the court to hear my testimony? Should I stand up in court and demand to be heard? Should I approach the judge privately and ask him to call me? Would it be too late if the jury is already deliberating?

If Quincy was serving on a jury in Los Angeles County (and I have done that), the jurors in a trial (not the grand jurors) can only ask questions by writing them out and giving them to the judge. If it’s a question for a witness, the judge will usually just tell you that you can’t ask that, the attorneys do.
The judge will answer questions like “How many days is this going to take?” or “Can I have the day off to go to the doctor?”, not things like “What were you saying in that side bar?” or “Why doesn’t the DA call that witness?”
Once you’re deliberating, the jury can start asking questions (in writing). The jury might not like the answers.

That’s just my experience with serving jury duty in the County of Los Angeles.

This web site has the following to say:

Improving The Jury System
Jury Instructions: Helping Jurors Understand the Evidence and the Law
by Ellen Chilton & Patricia Henley

(I summarize here)

In some states jurors are not allowed to ask questions (supreme court decisions in Nebraska and Georgia.)

In most states and in federal courts, it is allowed but discouraged.

The only state that welcomes juror questions is Arizona.

The site also discusses pros and cons of jurors questioning the witnesses.

Re: your second question - don’t know. What if you had eyewitness testimony proving the innocence (or guilt) of the accused? I imagine that at the least an attorney could demand a retrial.

I believe there have been numerous cases where there have been eyewitnesses who can exonerate a convicted person and the judge still won’t grant a retrial.

Judges don’t like to overturn jury verdicts, unless the evidence is overwhelming.

Regarding Q #2, according to the Simpsons episode where Mayor Diamond Joe Quimby’s nephew is on trial, you can stand up even after the jury is ready to render their verdict and spill your guts to your heart’s delight. You can also communicate telepathically with your grade school principal.

(Hey, you watch Quincy, I’ll watch the Simpsons.)

Fancy a juror wanting to ask a question? Who does he think he is? What is he trying to do? Find out the truth? Come on! Why doesn’t he just vote “guilty” with everybody else? Some jurors just want to be difficult. I mean, we all know everybody is guilty!