Jury service is nothing more than helping your neighbors and friends by performing a civic duty. To serve well and truly as a juror is to carry on a great tradition of human liberty. The responsibility is heavy, but the reward of serving your community, and doing a necessary job makes it all abundantly worth while.
BECOMING A JUROR
- 21+ years of age
- Can read and write
- NOT a convicted felon, habitual drunkard, or common gambler
- Has not been convicted of the illegal sale of (or does not have interest in) alcoholic beverages in the last five years
- Does not have a case pending in this court
- Selection of Prospective Jurors:
- Prospective jurors' names are drawn at random-- by lot or chance -- from a jury wheel. Therefore, an individual may never be called to serve and others may be called several times.
- Excuses from Jury Service: All citizens are obligated to take part in seeing that justice is done and our form of government "by the people" is to endure. Therefore, only legal excuses provided by law should be presented. In general these include:
- Illness, or presence required at home
- Personal hardship
- Served on jury duty (on actual trial of a case) in this court in last two (2) years
- Compensation: A juror is paid a nominal fee by a pay warrant for their services. The Circuit Clerk keeps a daily record of the jurors who serve.
Jurors are called upon to try two types of cases -- civil and criminal.
A juror will not know which type of case they will be serving on and it
may change from one day to the next.
Civil cases are usually disputes
between two or more parties concerning monies, damages for injures,
Criminal Cases are filed in the name of the State of
Mississippi on an indictment returned by the Grand Jury charging that
person, or persons, called defendants, committed the particular crime.
Because crime is a violation of the laws of the State there are laws
which provide specific punishment for the guilty.
- Oath: The clerk will administer the oath and questions will be asked to qualify the person for jury duty.
A Jury Selection is the selection of jurors who have taken oath and are qualified to serve as a juror. The process is as follows:
"Voir dire" (to speak the truth) of the jury panel -- The judge introduces the parties to the law suit and the lawyers and asks general questions about your qualifications to sit as a juror on that case.>
"Opening statements" -- The lawyers give their views or opinions of what the proof and evidence will be in the case.
Questioning -- The lawyers are allowed to questions jury panel about their qualifications to sit as juror in that case.
Selection -- The lawyers are allowed to consult with their clients and select jurors (12 for Circuit Court or 6 for County Court) and alternates. The lawyers are allowed to excuse ("challenge") a juror for two reasons:
Trial: There are 6 stages of a trial.
For Cause -- knowledge of the case
Peremptory -- for no reason whatsoever -- only allowed 4 in civil cases and 6 in criminal cases
Lawyers give opening statements to tell you what he expects to prove.
Evidence of the Plaintiff (or State) normally consisting of testimony of witnesses, and exhibits on which the plaintiff (or State) bases its case
Evidence for the Defendant normally consisting of testimony of witnesses and exhibits in opposition to the Plaintiff's case, and in support of the Defendant's case.
Plaintiff may then offer evidence in rebuttal to deny, or explain defendant's evidence. Sometimes a surebuttal may be allowed by the Defendant.
Written instructions outlining the law applicable to the issues to be decided by the jury are read by the judge. By law the judge is not allowed to comment on the evidence.
The lawyers on each side make oral arguments to the jury in which they review and analyze the evidence, and give their reasons for claiming the evidence supports their case.
Final Deliberation and Verdicts:
Civil Cases -- to decide the case upon a preponderance of the evidence, and fix the amount of damages to be awarded, if there are damages, and 9 or more jurors may agree upon the verdict
Criminal Cases -- to decide if an accused person is guilty, or not guilty of the crime with which the person is charged by a unanimous (all 12 jurors must agree) verdict beyond a reasonable doubt.