THE PURPOSE OF A JURY
The jury is one of the most critical parts of the American legal system. Both the United States Constitution and the New Hampshire Constitution guarantee everyone the right to a jury trial. Our justice system depends on jurors like you to serve and make critical decisions about their cases.
We hope the information below will answer your questions about jury service. If you have a particular question about your jury service which is not answered below, please telephone the court where your jury service is to take place and ask to speak to the jury clerk.
YOUR JOB AS A JUROR
In your role as a juror, you will be called upon to decide important issues that
impact the lives of your fellow citizens. The promise you make in the jurors oath to help decide a case fairly and impartially is one that must not be taken lightly.
Your specific job as a juror is to sit through the trial and to decide what the facts are based upon the evidence. Then you must make a final decision based on those facts and your application of the law, which the judge explains. The judge will tell you what is and what is not evidence in each case. The judge will also instruct you as to the law that applies in the case. After you decide the facts, based on the evidence, you apply those facts to the law that the judge gives you to determine whether the party who has the burden of proving the case (generally, the State in a criminal case and the plaintiff in a civil case) has met that burden.
Jury service is an essential obligation of citizens in a democratic society. As a citizen in your community, you are being called upon to resolve conflicts between people in civil cases and determine guilt or innocence in criminal cases. Your task is critical to a determination of what is justice.
There are a few things you must keep in mind as you serve as a juror. The most important is the Golden Rule for Jurors: treat everyone in the courthouseparticularly, the parties and the witnessesthe way you would like to be treated if you were appearing in court. If you were accused of a crime, involved in a civil case, or called as a witness, you would want the jury to treat you with respect and dignity regardless of the disposition or outcome of the case.
You should keep an open mind about the evidence in the cases you will hear. You should not form any preconceived ideas about the case or be influenced by anything other than the evidence produced at trial. This is what it means to be fair. Listen and observe carefully to everything that you hear and see. You will need to determine who is telling the truth when witnesses are asked questions. You must then listen carefully to your fellow jurors when you discuss the case privately. Everyone on the jury has a right to express his or her opinion and thoughts about the case. However, in the end, you should make up your own mind about the case and not be afraid to stand by your opinion if you think you are right.
It is also very important that you listen to what the judge says about bias and prejudice. You should not talk about the case with anyone until the judge tells the entire jury to discuss the case privately and reach a decision. You should not read or listen to any news about the case from the radio, television or newspaper. You should make sure to tell the judge immediately if you think for any reason that you cannot decide the case fairly and impartiallythat is if you discover some personal connection to the case or if you feel you cannot be fair when making a decision.
This may seem like too many things to remember, but they will all become much clearer as you get familiar with the job of being a juror. There will be many people in the courtroom who will be depending on you and your good sense of fairness to help decide their case.
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Here are just a few things to keep in mind when you begin your jury service:
· You should dress appropriately when coming to court. Appropriate attire consists of clothing that you would wear to a business meeting. You may not wear shorts, tank tops, beach shoes or t-shirts, or any clothing with offensive language or logos. Your clothes should be neat, clean and comfortable. As a juror, you are representing the court system and should dress consistent with the dignity of court proceedings. If you appear in court wearing unacceptable clothing, you may be ordered by the Judge to go home and return to the courthouse properly attired.
· Do not chew gum or eat snacks during the proceedings. You will be given breaks during the proceedings when you can have a snack or something to drink.
· It is important to be on time when reporting for jury duty. The case cannot begin until all the jurors are ready. If you think you may be delayed for some reason, you should call the clerks office immediately.
· Remember not to talk to anyone about the case before the judge instructs you to. This means family members, friends or other jurors. If anyone tries to contact you or influence your decision, you should tell the judge or a court officer immediately.
· Everyone at the Superior Court will strive to treat all people fairly and with equal respect. Everyone entering a courthouse must be treated equally regardless of gender, race, religion, ethnic background, disability, sexual orientation, age, or ability to speak English. You should not make assumptions about a person because of any of these factors and should avoid remarks that may in any way be construed as discriminatory.
· FINALLY, remember to be fair and keep an open mind about what you hear and see during the proceedings. Set aside your personal feelings. By remaining impartial, you will be able to reach the best decision in this case for the benefit of your fellow citizens.
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You will be informed of when the trial is to start when you have been selected to serve on a jury. All trials follow an established order of events and the role of the jury is essentially the same in all of them.
The party that initiated the actionthe plaintiff in a civil case or the State in a criminal casewill present its side first. The defense may then present its evidence. Then, sometimes the plaintiff or State will give additional evidence as rebuttal. The defense may then do the same. This order of presentation is one reason the jurors are told to form no opinions until the evidence is completed.
A view is an opportunity for the jury to go to the scene of an accident or alleged crime. In the event a view is to be taken by the jury, the attorneys may make a pre-view statement and explain what the jury will see on the view. What the jury sees on a view is evidence and an aid in understanding the later testimony of witnesses.
After the view, if there is one, the attorney for the plaintiff (the party who brought the action) or the attorney for the State (in a criminal case) makes an opening statement telling the jury what the attorney expects to prove in the case. These statements are not evidence; they are merely a presentation of what the attorneys intend to prove during the trial. The attorney for the defendant may also make an opening statement directly either after the plaintiff/State opens its case or after the plaintiff/State has completed its case.
The evidence is the sworn testimony of witnesses or physical exhibits such as documents, records, weapons or various other articles and what you see on a view.
Most testimony will be given by witnesses who answer questions from the attorneys. The attorney calling a witness will question the witness first, in what is called direct examination. The opposing attorney may then question the witness in what is called cross-examination.
There are many complex rules about presenting or admitting evidence. These rules are applied in each case by the judge. It is the judges responsibility to make all decisions about what testimony, documents or other matters the jury can legally consider as evidence. The jury must never consider any matter that has been ruled inadmissible by the judge.
Occasionally one attorney may object to an action or question by the opposing attorney, or to a statement by a witness. The judge will rule on the objection and the jurors must abide by the ruling. If the judge sustains the objection, the jury may be told to disregard the statement of the witness. In that case, the statement must not be considered as evidence and jurors must not use it in reaching their decision in the case.
Sometimes the judge will rule on the objection without comment by the attorneys. Sometimes the attorneys and the judge will discuss it in front of the jury. On other occasions, the discussion will be at the judges bench out of the hearing of the jury. In some instances, the jury will be asked to go temporarily to the jury room to allow full discussion in the courtroom on questions of law or procedure, which must be decided by the judge.
Understandably, jurors can get frustrated by frequent or long waiting periods in the jury room. All that can be asked of jurors is that they be patient because important issues of law or procedure are being resolved that are necessary to the proper presentation of evidence to the jury.
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When all parties have finished presenting their evidence, the attorneys will make their final arguments to the jury. The defendant argues first; then the plaintiff or State argues. These arguments are not evidence; they are merely the attorneys' comments on the evidence that has been presented and how it fits with their theory of the case.
After all of the evidence has been presented and either directly before or after the attorneys give their final arguments, the judge gives instructions to the jury. The instructions by the judge are extremely important because it is a statement of the law as it applies to that particular case. The jury must apply the judges instructions on the law to the facts of the case as they determine them.
The case is now in the hands of the jury. The jury must now try to reach a verdict in the case. Even at this point jurors should keep an open mind and respectfully consider the opinions of others. The free exchange of all ideas among the jurors is essential. If at first the jury is not unanimous, it must continue to discuss the case and try to reach a verdict. A juror should never be afraid to change his or her mind when it seems reasonable to do so. A juror should not change his or her mind, however, unless convinced that the change should be made. To reach a verdict the jurors must weigh and consider the evidence that was presented according to the judges instructions on the applicable law. No other matters should be considered. Jurors must not be swayed by prejudice or sympathy.
The jury must reach the final verdict by reason and careful deliberation. In all cases, the verdict must be unanimousthat is, all the jurors must agree with the verdict.
When a verdict has been reached in a criminal case, the court officer will communicate with the judge and court will be called back into session. The jury will return to the courtroom and in the presence of the judge, the parties and their respective attorneys, the verdict is announced aloud in open court by the foreperson. At this point, the jurors may be asked individually whether they agree with the verdict.
In a civil case, the verdict will be delivered according to the judge's instructions.
After the verdict, the jury will be discharged to return to their homes and personal affairs until they are next needed in court.
APPEAL a complaint to a higher court that an injustice was done or that a mistake was made in a trial. The higher court is asked to correct or reverse the decision of the trial court by reviewing the lower court record.
APPROACH THE BENCH a request by the judge or attorneys for a private discussion with the judge at the bench about an issue of law or procedure, which is necessary to the proper presentation of evidence to the jury.
CIVIL CASE a lawsuit between persons in which the plaintiff usually seeks money damages.
COUNSEL another word for attorney, sometimes used to refer to all attorneys collectively.
COURT often used in place of judge since a judge acts for the court system and not as an individual.
COURT SECURITY OFFICER (BAILIFF) court security officers (bailiffs) will be assigned to assist jurors during the trial and to protect the jury from outside influences. Any question that may arise during the trial should be addressed to the bailiff who will take it to the judge.
CROSS-EXAMINATION the questioning of a witness by an attorney other than the one who called the witness to testify.
DEFENDANT person against whom a suit is brought in a civil case or a person charged with a crime in a criminal case.
DELIBERATE to weigh, consider and discuss the evidence given in a trial in order to reach a verdict.
DEPOSITION the sworn testimony of a witness taken outside of the court, written down and used during the trial. A deposition is often used when a witness is not able to be in court personally.
DIRECT EXAMINATION - the questioning of a witness by the attorney for the party who called the witness to testify.
EVIDENCE - the sworn testimony of witnesses, physical exhibits, a view of the scene or other matters allowed in the trial for the jury to consider.
FELONY a criminal case brought by the State of New Hampshire for which the law provides for a maximum punishment of one year or more in prison.
MOTION TO STRIKE a formal request to the judge not to allow testimony to be considered as evidence after it has been spoken by a witness. The judge will instruct the jury to disregard what was said if the motion is granted.
OBJECTION OVERRULED the judge denies an objection. The matter offered as evidence becomes evidence.
OBJECTION SUSTAINED the judge upholds an objection and the matter offered as evidence is not allowed in the case.
PARTY the State of New Hampshire in a criminal case, the plaintiff in a civil case and the defendant in a criminal or civil case.
PLAINTIFF person or group seeking damages in a civil case.
PROSECUTOR person who brings charges on behalf of the State in a criminal case usually a county attorney or an attorney from the attorney generals office.
SEQUESTER to keep members of the jury together at all times and apart from their normal contacts so that there is no chance they will see or hear anything about the case until they have reached a verdict.
TESTIMONY evidence given by a witness under oath.
VERDICT the formal decision of a jury on the questions given to the jury by the judge. Everyone on the jury must agree to the verdict.
WITNESS a person who gives testimony during a case. Usually this is a person who tells what he or she has seen, heard or knows about the case.
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The following oath shall be administered to petit jurors in criminal cases:
You solemnly swear or affirm that you will carefully consider the evidence and the law presented to you in this case and that you will deliver a fair and true verdict as to the charge or charges against the defendant. So help you God.
The following oath shall be administered to petit jurors in civil cases:
You swear that, in all cases between party and party that shall be committed to you, you will give a true verdict, according to law and evidence given you. So help you God.