Being a Juror

You may have a good idea of how jury service works, perhaps from following trials or from film or television. Fictional representations of court have a tendency to stretch the truth a little, so read on if you want a clearer idea of what you should expect.

Arriving at court

Once you arrive at your destination (i.e. the court), you will be shown a video and then be spoken to by the judge in order for you to understand your responsibilities as a juror. The judge will emphasise that you must not discuss the case with anybody outside of the jury over any medium, including social networking sites.

They will make sure you understand that it is a grave offence for anyone outside of the jury to try and influence you, and that any such attempt at manipulation should be reported to a court official or police officer.

Inside the courtroom

At the start of the trial the charges against the defendant will be read out by a court clerk. The case for the prosecution will first be presented, following by the defence. Once all the evidence has been presented, the advocates for the prosecution and defence may deliver a closing speech directly to the jury.

While the evidence is being heard you are free to take notes to assist you in coming to a decision. You will be able to take these notes into the deliberation room once the hearing has finished.

If you have any queries or problems during the trial, you will be able to pass a note to an usher, who will then deliver it to the judge. The judge will then be able to address the issue.

Before the jury moves to the deliberation room to decide their verdict, the judge will summarise the case and explain the relevant laws to the jury.

Coming to a decision

Once the trial has been heard, the jury will retire to a secluded room, where they will have no contact with any outsiders. Nothing will have been uttered whilst in the court room. Upon entering the room, jurors will be stripped of any electronic devices which may affect their decision- making, and will not be returned until either a decision is made or the jury elects to retire for the night.

In the deliberation room the jury will discuss the evidence amongst each other in order to reach a decision regarding the guilt of the defendant.

If there is anything that needs clarifying, a note can be delivered to the judge through an usher.

Voting

If a jury has the full complement of 12 members, then unanimity is not necessarily required. If after 2 hours the members of the jury cannot all agree on a verdict, then the judge may accept a majority decision, so long as at least 10 out of the 12 jurors are inclined in one direction.

Where there are 10 or 11 members of the jury the same applies, however only one member is allowed to disagree with the majority, i.e. where there are 11 members a 10-1 decision is needed, and where there are 10, 9-1 is what is required.

If there are only 9 members in the jury (which is the minimum) then a unanimous decision is required in all cases.

Once a verdict is ready to be delivered, you be called back into the courtroom, whereupon the foreman of the jury will be asked to announce whether the defendant has been found guilty or not guilty.