Jury Duty – Part IV of IV

Now, let’s assume you are one of the “lucky” ones selected for jury duty.  I will follow a typical case in Dallas / Fort Worth, Texas, although other jurisdictions are still very similar.  You will be asked by the judge to take a seat in the jury box at which time you will be sworn in.  The judge will then read some simple instructions pertaining to your duty as a juror such as not to discuss the case with anybody and not to do any outside research or investigations.  The judge will then hand the case off to the attorneys for opening statements.

After opening statements, the evidence stage of the case begins.  The jurors will hear testimony from witnesses, view photographs and other exhibits.  Once all parties have presented all their witness testimony and exhibits, the judge will then deliver the “Charge of the Court” and additional instructions dealing with jurors’ deliberations.  The “Charge of the Court”  is the formal written instructions, definitions and questions that the jury will answer during deliberations.  The jurors will also be instructed to select a foreman, whose job is to keep the deliberations organized and to make sure that the jury is abiding by the court’s instructions.  After reading the Charge, the attorneys will deliver their final arguments. 

Once the closing arguments are completed, the jury will be led out of the courtroom and into the jury deliberation room.  The jury foreman will be selected and the foreman must then read the entire Charge again to the jury panel as a whole.  Then the jurors will deliberate.  In a typical Texas civil case, a verdict can be delivered with a vote of at least ten jurors (with a twelve member jury in district court), or a vote of at least five jurors (with a six member jury in the lower courts).  However, the same jurors must agree on all the answers. 

During deliberations, the jury is allowed to submit questions to the Court.  This is usually a very tense moment as it tends to give the attorneys and the judge some sense of what the jury is thinking.  However, questions dealing with the evidence will not be answered and the judge will merely respond that the jury must rely on their own recollection of the testimony. 

Once the jurors have reached a verdict, they notify the judge and everyone reconvenes in the courtroom.  The verdict is then read aloud by the judge and the jury is asked to confirm whether this is their verdict.  If the verdict is less than unanimous, then either party can request that the jurors be “polled” in order to confirm that the verdict has been properly reached by the required number of jurors.

Thereafter, the jurors are released and are unusually encouraged to talk to the lawyers about the case out in the hall.  Many lawyers find this very beneficial in that it helps them better understand their cases.

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