What exactly can't I talk about as a juror?

I was picked as a juror for a trial that hasn’t started yet but is expected to go for several weeks. Naturally just about everyone I know (who knows I’m going to be unavailable during that time) is curious and wants to know what it’s going to be about.

What am I legally allowed to say about it, and what am I not legally allowed to say?

The judge will give you instructions.

As I recall, you can’t discuss the case with anyone, even your fellow jurors until you are in jury deliverations. You also can’t allow the case to be discussed in your presence, listen to accounts on radio or TV or read news accounts.

What you are supposed to know about the case is supposed to be only that which is brought out in the actual trial.

The judge will give you specific instructions. If you have any questions, you can ask him.

The judge did give instructions: he said not to talk about it.

But does that mean I cannot say whether it’s a civil or criminal trial; does that mean I cannot say what the charge is? Does that mean I cannot say a word about it to my husband?

Honestly, I was WAY too intimidated to raise my hand, interrupt proceedings, and ask for specifics. So I figured I just wouldn’t talk about it, like he said. But every single person (and I mean everyone) that knows is asking A) is it civil or criminal B) what is the charge, and just about every one of those people has a different “take” on what I’m allowed/not allowed to say.

I’d just like the, ah, straight dope.

You can always ask the bailiff. Either he’ll be able to answer your questions himself or he will relay them to the judge if necessary. The bailiff for the courtroom where I served as a juror last year was very nice and approachable, unlike the judge who scared me.

I just didn’t get picked for the jury on a two month murder trial :smiley: but I was a finalist. I was on a criminal case a year and a half ago.

The judge should have told you some of the basics of the case when you first entered the courtroom. I believe that this is okay to talk about. What goes on in court is public, so the prohibition on you talking about it, from what the judge told us, was more to keep other people from giving you ideas, and to encourage you to keep an open mind and not come to any conclusions until you hear all the evidence. You should also have been told that you are not allowed to research the case or visit the scene. The judge specifically told us not to discuss the case even with our spouses.

I’d suspect that the prohibition is to keep well-meaning friends and relatives from telling you what they read in the paper about the case, information you are not supposed to have.

The case where I was on the jury was too trivial to have made the papers in any case - the judge kind of laughed when he told us of the California law where you must wait a certain amount of time to make money selling your story as a juror - but when I got home from being dismissed on the murder case, I ran right home and searched for it.


IANAL, but a couple months ago I was a juror on a case that got a short paragraph or two in the local newspaper. Ugly case: I’m sort of glad that I had an excuse for not talking about it more.

For the sake of sheer civility, I suspect that it’s probably okay to briefly mention that it’s a criminal or civil trial, and probably okay to mention vague details about the charges that won’t actually identify which local case it is.

If from that you get the response, “All them druggies ought to be shot!” – well, that won’t influence your future decision one way or another, will it?

Otherwise, just say: “I’ll tell you all about it when it’s over, but for now the judge said we can’t talk about it.”

My 2 cents. I will gladly accept correction from any actual lawyers / judges.

What others have said - ask the judge. The judge has the final say. For all we know there is something special about the case you are on, or your location, or something else that affects exactly what you are allowed to talk about.

Since the judge said “Don’t talk about the case with anyone” I’d take that as an absolute - don’t talk about it with your friends, your relatives, Dopers, strangers, fellow jurors outside of deliberations, don’t do outside research, if it comes up someplace change the channel/stop reading the article/excuse yourself from the conversation, etc.

I dunno about your judge but when I served the judge and all the officers of the court were very nice to the jurors - unlike everyone else there we were only there because we were doing our civic duty and they all appreciated that. So ask for clarification if anything is on your mind.

The point to not talking about the case is not to keep what you are doing secret. It’s to avoid having your mind influenced by the contributions of others. You are supposed to decide the case based solely upon the evidence you will be provided in the courtroom; comments, however well-meaning or innocuous-seeming from people you are in contact with can influence your thinking. This includes your spouse.

You are best advised to limit what you say to very non-specific things, like civil v. criminal. You might mention the general type of case, but not if by so doing you identify yourself as the juror in a locally notorious case. For example, saying you are sitting a rape trial when everyone is watching the news about a locally notorious rape case on the evening news is bound to identify your case sufficient to receive unsolicited commentary.

Enjoy your time in the juror’s box. I’d love to do that service, just once. Maybe now that I’m no longer an active attorney, I’ll have a chance. :slight_smile:

My experience as a juror matches this. When the judge says “Don’t talk about the case with anyone”, they mean precisely that. If someone asks you about the trial, tell them “The judge told me not to talk about it”. Don’t look for loop holes.

And the court officials are friendly and very helpful to the jurors. They will happily answer your questions. It’s part of their job to make sure the jury knows what’s going on. If you don’t feel comfortable asking a question in open court, write a note with your question (be sure to sign it “Juror #”) and give it to the bailiff. The court will address your question.

Good advice above. I’d just add, many judges and magistrates don’t want you to discuss the case even in the slightest detail, because saying anything will lead to further questions that you shouldn’t answer, or discussions that you shouldn’t be having, until you’ve heard all of the evidence, deliberated with your fellow jurors and reached a verdict. An absolutist approach gives you a convenient “no comment… yet” reply to everyone, family, friends and strangers.

I’d like to serve on a real jury (not just mock trial, which I’ve done) someday. Hasn’t happened yet.