Why Is Jury Service Important?
The United States Constitution and the Texas Constitution guarantee all people, regardless of race, religion, sex, national origin, or economic status, the right to trial by an impartial jury. Justice ultimately depends to a large measure upon the quality of the jurors who serve in our courts.
What Is My Duty As A Juror?
As a juror, you must be fair and impartial. Your actions and decisions must be free of any bias or prejudice Your actions and decisions are the foundation of our judicial system.
How Was I Selected?
You were selected at random from a list of voter registrations and a list of driver registrations from Dallas county .
Am I Eligible?
Who Can Be Excused From Jury Service?
You are entitled to be excused as a juror if you:
There are two basic types of cases, criminal and civil (including family cases).
A criminal case results when a person is accused of committing a crime. You, as a juror, must decide whether the person charged is guilty or not guilty. The accused person is presumed innocent, and the State, represented by the District or County Attorney, must prove guilt "beyond a reasonable doubt."
A civil case results from a disagreement or dispute between two or more parties. In a civil case, you, as a juror, must answer questions of disputed facts based upon the testimony and evidence admitted by the judge. The answers to these questions are called the verdict.
Will I Be Paid For Being A Juror?
Yes. Jurors will be reimbursed $6.00 for the first day of jury service, $40.00 for each day of service thereafter.
Must My Employer Pay Me While I Am On Jury Duty?
Your employer is not required to pay you while on jury duty; however, employers are prohibited by law from firing an employee for serving as a juror.
Who Can Have A Jury Trial?
Any person charged with a criminal offense or any party to a civil case has a right to a jury trial. All parties are equal before the law and each is entitled to the same fair treatment.
Are There Rules About Jury Conduct?
Yes. The Texas Supreme Court has rules to assist you in your conduct as a juror, which will be given to you by the judge.
How Is A Juror Selected For A Particular Case?
Cases will usually be heard by juries of 6 or 12 jurors. A larger group, called a panel, will be sent to the trial court (courtroom) where the jurors will be questioned under the supervision of the judge.
A juror may be excused from the panel if it is shown that the juror cannot act impartially concerning the case to be heard. In addition, each side is allowed to remove a given number of jurors from the panel without having to show any reason. The trial jury will be the first 6 or 12 of the remaining jurors on the panel.
What Is Voir Dire Or Questioning Of The Jury Panel?
It is a way for the parties to select a fair and impartial jury. Under the justice system, you may be questioned by each of the lawyers before they decide to remove a certain number of jurors from the jury panel.
For example. the lawyer may ask you questions to see if you are connected to the trial or if you have any prejudice or bias toward anyone in the trial These questions are not intended to embarrass you, but rather to help the lawyers in the jury selection process. You may ask the judge to allow you to answer some questions away from the other jurors.
What If I Have A Special Need or Emergency?
After you have been selected as a juror on a trial panel, if you have a special need or an emergency, tell the bailiff.
Order Of Events Of The Trial
The lawyers for each side may explain the case, the evidence they will present, and the issues for you to decide.
Presentation Of Evidence
The evidence consists of the testimony of witnesses and the exhibits allowed by the judge. Exhibits admitted into evidence will be available to the jury for examination during deliberations. You have a right to ask for them. You will be asked to make decisions regarding disputed facts; therefore, your attention at all times is critically important. Juror notetaking or the use of any notes will be determined by the judge.
Rulings By The Judge
The judge may be asked to decide questions of law during the trial. Occasionally, the judge may ask jurors to leave the courtroom while the lawyers make their legal arguments. The jurors should understand that such interruptions are needed to make sure that their verdict is based upon proper evidence, as determined by the judge under the Rules of Evidence. You may give the evidence whatever weight you consider appropriate.
Instructions To The Jury
At the close of all the evidence, the judge may submit to the jury the Charge of the Court. This will include legal instructions on this particular case and the questions that the jury is to answer from the evidence admitted.
After the Charge of the Court, the lawyers have the opportunity to summarize the evidence in their closing arguments and to try to persuade the jury to accept their client's view of the case.
Deliberations And Verdict Of The Jury
Following closing arguments, the jury is sent to deliberate. When the jury has answered the questions asked of them they shall return their verdict. The verdict must be based solely on the evidence presented by the parties, the Charge of the Court, and the rules of law provided by the judge.
When In Doubt, Ask The Judge
You have the right to communicate with the judge regarding any matters affecting your deliberations, including but not limited to:
Note: Not all of these rules apply in Justice or Municipal Courts. This handbook was furnished by a grant from the Texas Bar Foundation. For reprint information call the State Bar of Texas at 1-800-204-2222.