The Jury Duty


A duty as a citizen and a duty to citizens.

They are silent during the trial, attacked by defense and prosecution attorneys, leave little to show emotion, and yet everything rests on them: the jurors in a lawsuit in the United States. The verdict belongs to them, their deliberations are crucial and convincing them remains the mission of both parties. But who are they really?

Being a jury in a trial, a citizen's duty

Every year, millions of Americans receive a solemn letter in their mailbox: a summons to be a jury in a lawsuit, and thus fulfill their "jury duty".

"Jury duty" clearly indicates color: being a juror is above all a duty, and the institution of the popular jury for a criminal trial is enshrined in the American Constitution, but also in the "Bill of Rights". Once convened, it is a most serious task that awaits you: attend the trial and give your verdict.

A popular jury is composed of 12 citizens - although some states allow 6 minimum in certain trials - which are called as much in civil as in criminal proceedings - and even for the trials of terrorism.

For any criminal procedure, being tried by a popular jury is therefore a right, and for civil proceedings the application may come from either the prosecution or the defense. But an accused also has the right to refuse to be tried by a jury, and may prefer to submit to the judge's decision only.

Who can be a juror, who can refuse to be?

The conditions to be sworn

In order to be selected as a juror, you must first meet certain conditions:

  • Being over 18 years of age
  • Being a USA citizenship
  • Be a resident of the district where the trial has been held for at least one year;
  • Speak English and know how to read and write correctly.


Some people are not selectable, and among them are those who are charged or have been convicted of a crime punishable by more than one year's imprisonment and have not yet been reinstated. civil rights.

The draw for citizens

To make up a jury, citizens are often drawn from lists of the VDD (Department of Motor Vehicles), voter lists (although they are often used little because of the low turnout of Americans in the ballot boxes) , Or telephone directories.

But once these people are drawn, some of them can be exempted ex officio, or very easily: active members of the American armed forces, firefighters, senior officials ... are generally not subject to this duty.

Others, who fulfill functions with certain professional obligations and who require their presence in their day-to-day profession, can also be very easily excused, such as journalists, teachers, doctors, priests, mothers of children in young age…

Selection of the jury in court

Once a sample of the population is selected, the moment of the parties' real choice begins, often starting with a questionnaire that the chosen people complete, to determine if they meet the requirements for being a juror.

The lawyers of the two parties or the judge then question them verbally, and may then challenge those who are not completely biased or are not able to be jurors.

12 people are at the end retained, with 1 replacement, or sometimes several. The selected jurors then swear to determine their conscience, and are ready to attend the trial.

The role of the jury in a trial in the United States

Throughout the trial, the jury is called upon to rule on the facts, not the law. In criminal proceedings, they must then rule on the accused's guilt "beyond a reasonable doubt". It is therefore a heavy task for the jury, who often debates and discusses property other than trial during its sessions. In states where the death penalty is legal, it is often a question of life or death for the accused.

The role of the jury is so crucial in criminal cases that it is not uncommon for it to be totally excluded during its deliberations: the jurors do not go home, they are lodged in the hotel and they Are escorted to take their meals.

At the end of the trial, the jurors must deliberate and decide. In a criminal trial, the jury must rule unanimously - except for two exceptions, Oregon and Louisiana. In a civil trial, some fifteen states allow a judgment not to be unanimous; The jury must then not only take a position on the facts but also on the amount of damages if it considers it necessary for one party to pay to the other.



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