Criminal Justice Section Standards

Trial by Jury

ABA PRINCIPLES FOR JURIES & JURY TRIALS

RELATED TO ABA CRIMINAL JUSTICE STANDARDS ON TRIAL BY JURY

Jury Principle 2(A)

All persons should be eligible for jury service except those who:

1. Are less than eighteen years of age; or

2. Are not citizens of the United States; or

3. Are not residents of the jurisdiction in which they have been summoned to serve; or

4. Are not able to communicate in the English language and the court is unable to provide a satisfactory interpreter; or

5. Have been convicted of a felony and are in actual confinement or on probation, parole or other court supervision.

Jury Principle 2(B)

Eligibility for jury service should not be denied or limited on the basis of race, national origin, gender, age, religious belief, income, occupation, disability, sexual orientation, or any other factor that discriminates against a cognizable group in the jurisdiction other than those set forth in A. above.

Jury Principle 2(D)

Courts should respect jurors’ time by calling in the minimum number deemed necessary and by minimizing their waiting time.

1. Courts should coordinate jury management and calendar management to make effective use of jurors.

2. Courts should determine the minimally sufficient number of jurors needed to accommodate trial activity. This information and appropriate management techniques should be used to adjust both the number of persons summoned for jury duty and the number assigned to jury panels.

3. Courts should ensure that all jurors in the courthouse waiting to be assigned to panels for the first time are assigned before any juror is assigned a second time.

Jury Principle 3(C)

At any time before verdict, the parties, with the approval of the court, may stipulate that the jury shall consist of fewer jurors than required for a full jury, but in no case fewer than six jurors. In criminal cases the court should not accept such a stipulation unless the defendant, after being advised by the court of his or her right to trial by a full jury, and the consequences of waiver, personally waives the right to a full jury either in writing or in open court on the record.

Jury Principle 4(C)

At any time before verdict, the parties, with the approval of the court, may stipulate to a less-than-unanimous decision. To be valid, the stipulation should be clear as to the number of concurring jurors required for the verdict. In criminal cases, the court should not accept such a stipulation unless the defendant, after being advised by the court of his or her right to a unanimous decision, personally waives that right, either in writing or in open court on the record.

Jury Principle 6(C)(1)

The court should give preliminary instructions directly following empanelment of the jury that explain the jury’s role, the trial procedures including note-taking and questioning by jurors, the nature of evidence and its evaluation, the issues to be addressed, and the basic relevant legal principles, including the elements of the charges and claims and definitions of unfamiliar legal terms.

Jury Principle 7(A)(1)

Juror voir dire should be open and accessible for public view except as provided herein. Closing voir dire proceedings should only occur after a finding by the court that there is a threat to the safety of the jurors or evidence of attempts to intimidate or influence the jury.

Jury Principle 7A(4)

Courts should explain to jurors how the information they provide will be used, how long it will be retained, and who will have access to it.

Jury Principle 9(C)

Courts should consider the option of trying the case in the original venue but selecting the jury from a new venue. In addition to all other considerations relevant to the selection of the new venue, consideration should be given to whether the original venue would be a better location to conduct the trial due to facilities, security, and the convenience of the victims, court staff, and parties. This should be balanced against the possible inconvenience to the jurors.

Jury Principle 10(A)(1)

The names of potential jurors should be drawn from a jury source list compiled from two or more regularly maintained source lists of persons residing in the jurisdiction. These source lists should be updated at least annually.

Jury Principle 10(C)

Exemptions, excuses, and deferrals should be sparingly used.

1. All automatic excuses or exemptions from jury service should be eliminated.

2. Eligible persons who are summoned may be excused from jury service only if:

a. Their ability to perceive and evaluate information is so impaired that even with reasonable accommodations having been provided, they are unable to perform their duties as jurors and they are excused for this reason by a judge; or

b. Their service would be an undue hardship or they have served on a jury during the two years preceding their summons and they are excused by a judge or duly authorized court official.

3. Deferrals of jury service to a date certain within six months should be permitted by a judge or duly authorized court official. Prospective jurors seeking to postpone their jury service to a specific date should be permitted to submit a request by telephone, mail, in person or electronically. Deferrals should be preferred to excusals whenever possible.

4. Requests for excuses or deferrals and their disposition should be written or otherwise made of record. Specific uniform guidelines for determining such requests should be adopted by the court.

Jury Principle 10(C)(2)(a)

Eligible persons who are summoned may be excused from jury service only if:

  • Their ability to perceive and evaluate information is so impaired that even with reasonable accommodations having been provided, they are unable to perform their duties as jurors and they are excused for this reason by a judge; or . . .

Jury Principle 10(C)(2)(b)

Eligible persons who are summoned may be excused from jury service only if:

  • Their service would be an undue hardship or they have served on a jury during the two years preceding their summons and they are excused by a judge or duly authorized court official.

Jury Principle 10(E)

Opportunity to challenge the assembled jury pool should be afforded all parties on the ground that there has been material departure from the requirements of the law governing selection of jurors. The court should maintain demographic information as to its source lists, summonses issued, and reporting jurors.

Jury Principle 11(B)

The voir dire process should be held on the record and appropriate demographic data collected.

1. Questioning of jurors should be conducted initially by the court, and should be sufficient, at a minimum, to determine the jurors’ legal qualification to serve in the case.

2. Following initial questioning by the court, each party should have the opportunity, under the supervision of the court and subject to reasonable time limits, to question jurors directly, both individually and as a panel. In a civil case involving multiple parties, the court should permit each separately represented party to participate meaningfully in questioning prospective jurors, subject to reasonable time limits and avoidance of repetition.

3. Voir dire should be sufficient to disclose grounds for challenges for cause and to facilitate intelligent exercise of peremptory challenges.

4. Where there is reason to believe that jurors have been previously exposed to information about the case, or for other reasons are likely to have preconceptions concerning it, the parties should be given liberal opportunity to question jurors individually about the existence and extent of their knowledge and preconceptions.

5. It is the responsibility of the court to prevent abuse of the juror selection examination process.

Jury Principle 11(C)

Challenges for cause should be available at the request of a party or at the court’s own initiative.

1. Each jurisdiction should establish, by law, the grounds for and the standards by which a challenge for cause to a juror is sustained by the court.

2. At a minimum, a challenge for cause to a juror should be sustained if the juror has an interest in the outcome of the case, may be biased for or against one of the parties, is not qualified by law to serve on a jury, has a familial relation to a participant in the trial, or may be unable or unwilling to hear the subject case fairly and impartially. There should be no limit to the number of challenges for cause.

3. In ruling on a challenge for cause, the court should evaluate the juror’s demeanor and substantive responses to questions. If the court determines that there is a reasonable doubt that the juror can be fair and impartial, then the court should excuse him or her from the trial. The court should make a record of the reasons for the ruling including whatever factual findings are appropriate.

Jury Principle 11(F)

No party should be permitted to use peremptory challenges to dismiss a juror for constitutionally impermissible reasons.

1. It should be presumed that each party is utilizing peremptory challenges validly, without basing those challenges on constitutionally impermissible reasons.

2. A party objecting to the challenge of a juror on the grounds that the challenge has been exercised on a constitutionally impermissible basis, establishes a prima facie case of purposeful discrimination by showing that the challenge was exercised against a member of a constitutionally cognizable group; and by demonstrating that this fact, and any other relevant circumstances, raise an inference that the party challenged the juror because of the juror's membership in that group.

3. When a prima facie case of discrimination is established, the burden shifts to the party making the challenge to show a nondiscriminatory basis for the challenge.

4. The court should evaluate the credibility of the reasons proffered by the party as a basis for the challenge. If the court finds that the reasons stated are not pretextual and otherwise constitutionally permissible and are supported by the record, the court should permit the challenge. If the court finds that the reasons for the challenge are pretextual, or otherwise constitutionally impermissible, the court should deny the challenge and, after consultation with counsel, determine whether further remedy is appropriate. The court should state on the record the reasons, including whatever factual findings are appropriate, for sustaining or overruling the challenge.

5. When circumstances suggest that a peremptory challenge was used in a constitutionally impermissible manner, the court on its own initiative, if necessary, shall advise the parties on the record of its belief that the challenge is impermissible, and its reasons for so concluding and shall require the party exercising the challenge to make a showing under F. 3. above.

Jury Principle 11(G)(2)

The status of jurors as regular jurors or as alternates should be determined through random selection at the time for jury deliberation.

Jury Principle 12(A)

The court, after conferring with the parties, should impose and enforce reasonable time limits on the trial or portions thereof.

Jury Principle 13(A)

Jurors should be allowed to take notes during the trial.

1. Jurors should be instructed at the beginning of the trial that they are permitted, but not required, to take notes in aid of their memory of the evidence and should receive appropriate cautionary instructions on note-taking and note use. Jurors should also be instructed that after they have reached their verdict, all juror notes will be collected and destroyed.

2. Jurors should ordinarily be permitted to use their notes throughout the trial and during deliberations.

3. The court should ensure that jurors have implements for taking notes.

4. The court should collect all juror notes at the end of each trial day until the jury retires to deliberate.

5. After the jurors have returned their verdict, all juror notes should be collected and destroyed.

Jury Principle 13(D)

The court should assist jurors where appropriate.

1. The court should not in any way indicate to the jury its personal opinion as to the facts or value of evidence by the court's rulings, conduct, or remarks during the trial.

2. When necessary to the jurors’ proper understanding of the proceedings, the court may intervene during the taking of evidence to instruct on a principle of law or the applicability of the evidence to the issues. This should be done only when the jurors cannot be effectively advised by postponing the explanation to the time of giving final instructions.

3. The court should exercise self-restraint and preserve an atmosphere of impartiality and detachment, but may question a witness if necessary to assist the jury.

a. Generally, the court should not question a witness about subject matter not raised by any party with that witness, unless the court has provided the parties an opportunity, outside the hearing of the jury, to explain the omission. If the court believes the questioning is necessary, the court should afford the parties an opportunity to develop the subject by further examination prior to its questioning of the witness.

b. The court should instruct the jury that questions from the court, like questions from the parties, are not evidence; that only answers are evidence; that questions by the court should not be given special weight or emphasis; and the fact that the court asks a question does not reflect a view on the merits of the case or on the credibility of any witness.

Jury Principle 13(D)(3)(b)

The court should instruct the jury that questions from the court, like questions from the parties, are not evidence; that only answers are evidence; that questions by the court should not be given special weight or emphasis; and the fact that the court asks a question does not reflect a view on the merits of the case or on the credibility of any witness.

Jury Principle 13E(3)

All communications between the judge and members of the jury panel from the time of reporting to the courtroom for juror selection examination until dismissal should be in writing or on the record in open court. Each party should be informed of such communications and given the opportunity to be heard.

Jury Principle 15(C)(2)

A jury should not be required to deliberate after normal working hours unless the court after consultation with the parties and the jurors determines that evening or weekend deliberations would not impose an undue hardship upon the jurors and are required in the interest of justice.

Jury Principle 15(D)

When jurors submit a question during deliberations, the court, in consultation with the parties, should supply a prompt, complete and responsive answer or should explain to the jurors why it cannot do so.

Jury Principle 18(E)

Courts should inform jurors that they may ask for the assistance of the court in the event that individuals persist in questioning jurors, over their objection, about their jury service.

Jury Principle 19(A)

Only under exceptional circumstances may a verdict be impeached upon information provided by jurors.

1. Upon an inquiry into the validity of a verdict, no evidence should be received to show the effect of any statement, conduct, event, or condition upon the mind of a juror or concerning the mental processes by which the verdict was determined.

2. The limitations in A.1 above should not bar evidence concerning whether the verdict was reached by lot or contains a clerical error, or was otherwise unlawfully decided.

3. A juror’s testimony or affidavit may be received when it concerns:

a. Whether matters not in evidence came to the attention of one or more jurors; or

b. Any other misconduct for which the jurisdiction permits jurors to impeach their verdict.

 

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