What to Expect When you are Selected for Jury Duty
WHAT TO EXPECT WHEN YOU ARE SELECTED FOR JURY DUTY
You have received your jury summons, which states that you have been selected by law to act as an officer of this court by serving as a juror. Because this may be the first time that you have ever been called for service, this information has been provided to you and you are urged to read it very carefully. The information contained herein is not intended to take the place of the instructions given by the judge in any case. In the event of a conflict, the judge’s instructions will prevail.
As citizens of South Carolina, and of the United States, each of us has an obligation to make a contribution to the American system of justice. You are now being called upon to participate in one of the cornerstones of the judicial process, a trial by jury. The mandate of justice for all can only be achieved through the combined efforts of judges, lawyers and citizens serving as jurors. Your role as juror, as the "judge" of facts, will require you to carry out your duties attentively, intelligently and fairly. Remember, your vote as a juror is usually final.
When you first receive your summons for jury duty, read through the summons and also the disqualification, exemption and excuse of jurors list. Follow the instructions on the jury summons. Call the jurors information line (843-569-4228) (this is a recorded message that is available 24 hours) and leave your name, telephone number(s)-home and work, and the date you are scheduled to attend. Please speak clearly as this information is written on the master jurors list. Also if you meet any of the disqualifications on the list, ie: you are over the age of 65, state that on the recorded message also. If you meet the criteria for disqualification then you will be excused and the court will make note of this on the jurors list. If we need to contact you, we will. If you have a question in reference to being excused then please call the court at 843-569-4230.
If there is a cancellation, the court will make every effort to contact you. You may also call the jury trial update line (843-569-4233). This is updated immediately upon cancellation of a jury trial. Since there are many jury trials scheduled throughout the month, you will also hear the dates of others that are scheduled. You may call this number as many times as you want to. We suggest that you call it around 5:00 p.m. on the day of the trial that you are scheduled to attend. This message is only changed when there is a change.
Jury duty is held at the Marguerite H. Brown Municipal Center. The building is located at 519 N. Goose Creek Blvd., which is also Hwy. 52. The court is located a little over 2 miles from the Hwy. 176 and Hwy. 52 intersection. The courtroom is the first glass double doors of the building if you park parallel to Hwy. 52. You should arrive no later than 6:15 p.m. and do not need to arrive any earlier than that since the trial does not start until 6:30 p.m. Jury duty for Goose Creek Municipal Court is almost always for the one evening you are called upon to serve. Check in with the bailiff when you arrive and you may take a seat in the courtroom until the court is called to order. You will not need to bring your jury summons with you, however it is helpful to the bailiff.
Every reasonable effort will be made by the court to make your service as a juror comfortable and with as little inconvenience as possible; however plan accordingly before coming to court as you may be in court for quite some time. Cases set for trial may be postponed or settled just as they are scheduled to begin, which can cause delays. Please help the court operate more smoothly by being patient and cooperative and by being on time as instructed. It may happen that during your service as juror you may never be called upon to actually sit in on the trial or a case-but your very presence and availability as a juror is a contribution of great importance.
SELECTION OF THE JURY
There are usually 25 to 35 prospective jurors present in the courtroom. The jury panel consists of only six jurors and sometimes an alternate is selected. The jury selection process in any particular case usually begins with a brief explanation by the judge of the general nature of the case and the names of the parties involved. The types of questions asked are determined by the judge, with suggestions from the prosecution and defense attorney(s) representing the parties. The questioning called "voir dire" is designed to permit the parties to become acquainted with the prospective jurors, and to determine whether a juror can serve fairly and impartially in the case. Commonly asked questions may be "if you are a resident of Goose Creek, related by blood or marriage to any of the parties involved in the case or have any prior knowledge of the case". Listen carefully to the judge’s questions. If you do not completely understand the question, raise your hand. If during the questioning, a prospective juror indicates by their answer that they are not legally qualified to act as a juror, they may be excused "for cause". This excuse "for cause" may be on the judge’s initiative, or upon motion of one of the parties, but there is no limit to the number of jurors who may be excused for cause. After voir dire has been concluded, and there are no further "challenges for cause" by either party, the parties may finally choose their jury by exercising a certain number of "peremptory challenges." This means that each party may excuse a certain number of jurors without having to show a reason. A juror who is challenged and thereby excused from services should not be offended, as each party has a different idea as to the type of juror that would be most beneficial to the trial of their case.
After the judge completes the questioning, the clerk will call out your name. When your name is called, stand, give your name, age, occupation, and spouse’s occupation, if applicable. Speak clearly and loudly as all proceedings are recorded. After everyone’s name is called, the judge will announce how many strikes there will be for both defense and prosecution and then the clerk pulls one name at a time from sealed capsules, until six jurors are selected. If your name is called the second time, stand until the prosecution and defense have either excused you or chosen you to serve. If chosen, move to the jury box. After both sides have completed their challenges and the jury box has been filled with six jurors, sometimes an alternate is chosen. The process of selecting jurors is now concluded. The remaining people may leave or choose to stay and watch the proceedings as the judge will instruct. Court is open to the public at any time. The jury panel is then administered the oath by the court. The judge appoints one of the jurors as foreperson.
STAGES OF TRIAL
1. OPENING STATEMENTS
An opening statement is made first by the prosecution, then by the defense. The purpose of this opening statement is to outline to the jury the facts of the case and what each side will attempt to establish through the presentation of evidence. This is only an explanation of what each side claims.
2. PRESENTATION OF EVIDENCE
After both sides have been given the opportunity to make opening statements, the trial moves to the stage in which evidence is presented by each side. The prosecution first presents all the evidence that supports his/her contentions; and is then followed by the defendant who presents his evidence.
Most evidence is presented in the form of spoken testimony of witnesses who have taken an oath to tell the truth. The party that has called the witness is the first to ask questions of that witness. This is called direct examination. After direct examination is concluded, the other party may cross-examine, or ask further questions of that witness. After cross-examination, the party that called the witness has a final opportunity to ask questions which is called re-direct examination. You should pay close attention to each witness as they testify, not only to what they say but their manner and actions. If at any time you are unable to hear clearly, make the judge aware of the problem by raising a hand.
From time to time during the trial, you may hear either party make what are known as "objections." Objections may be made for several reasons: to the conduct of the parties; to the form of a question during the examination of a witness; to the introduction of evidence. If the objection is deemed improper or not well founded by the judge, he/she will "overrule" the objection, and allow the proceedings to continue or the evidence to be introduced. If on the other hand the judge finds the objection to be valid and proper, he/she may "sustain" it, thereby discontinuing that conduct or question or may refuse to allow the introduction of evidence.
Under the rules of law governing the introduction and admission of evidence, it may be objected to if believed improper by either side. A judge is the sole authority on what evidence is proper. Since the evidence may be excluded, the jury is usually not allowed to hear arguments as to admissibility. Thus, the judge may send the jury out of the courtroom to allow the parties to argue to him/her whether the evidence should be admitted. Sometimes evidence gets before the jury before the opposing party has a chance to object. The judge may order the jury to disregard such evidence completely, and if so ordered, it should be disregarded and not considered as evidence.
3. FINAL OR CLOSING ARGUMENTS
After both sides have had an opportunity to present their evidence and have both "rested" their cases, they are given a chance to make final or closing arguments to the jury. First, the prosecutor, followed by the defendant make closing arguments in which they sum up the evidence and testimony and try to persuade the jury to find in their favor. These arguments, like the opening statements, should be listened to attentively but should not be considered as evidence in themselves.
At the end of the final arguments, the judge will instruct you on the law that applies to the case, and you must apply that law to the facts as you find them in arriving at your verdict. You are bound under your oath to give full effect to the law as the judge states it to you. You must pay close attention to his/her instructions.
5. JURY DELIBERATION
Following the instructions, or charge by the judge, the bailiff will escort you to the jury room where you will conduct your deliberations. The foreperson designated by the judge presides during the deliberations. The foreperson acts as the chairman of the jury. It is the chairman’s duty to see that discussion is carried on in a free and orderly manner, that the matters and issues submitted for the decisions are fully and freely discussed, and that every juror is given an opportunity to express themselves.
After you retire to the jury room, you are entitled to have all exhibits brought to you. Should you feel that it is necessary to be re-instructed, or receive additional instruction on the law or to have certain testimony read to you, you may so inform the judge through the bailiff. You should not, however, make such requests lightly, for they can be answered only by returning the jury to the courtroom where the court will resume in full session. The procedure may require considerable time, but is justifiable if you seriously believe it to be necessary or helpful to you in discharging your duty.
The judge will carefully explain to you the degree of proof required to support particular findings, and you should pay the same careful attention to his instructions.
Quite often in the jury room differences of opinion arise among the jurors. When this occurs, each juror should express their opinions and reasons therefor. By the process of careful and thorough reasoning, it is generally possible for jurors to reach a verdict. A juror should not hesitate to change their mind where there is good reason for doing so, but one who has a definite opinion on a question should not change their opinion unless they conscientiously are moved to do so as a result of deliberations, their consideration of the views of their colleagues, and their own further thought on the matter.
It would be wrong for a juror to refuse to listen to the arguments and opinions of the others, or to deny the right of another juror to express their own judgment. They should vote only according to their own honest convictions, arrived at after a full and free discussion with their fellow jurors. After a verdict, or after a mistrial, or disagreement, jurors are under no duty or obligation to discuss what took place in the jury room with the lawyers in the case or anyone else.
BEHAVIOR OF JURORS DURING TRIAL
There are certain rules that jurors should follow throughout the trial. When a court session begins and the judge enters the courtroom, everyone, including jurors, should rise. You should give your undivided attention to every question and answer during the trial. If you are unable to hear clearly, you should notify the judge or bailiff.
Jurors should not discuss the case with any lawyer, party or witness in the case, nor should they allow it to be discussed in their presence. Furthermore, jurors should not discuss the case among themselves until such time as the judge sends them to deliberate a verdict. If any person persists in talking to you about the trial, or otherwise attempts to influence you as to its outcome, you should report that to the judge immediately.
In some occasions, after the jury has been selected and the case partially tried, the parties may settle the case or in a criminal matter the defendant may plead guilty. It can be the very presence of the jury that is responsible for the actual settlement of the case or plea by the defendant. In other cases, the judge may hand down a "directed verdict", which means that for a legal reason, the judge has determined that it is unnecessary to submit the case to the jury. This is the judge’s decision and not yours. In the event that a jury is unable to reach a verdict as required by law, the judge may declare a mistrial and the case will then have to be tried at another time before another jury.
In arriving at a verdict, jurors are expected to bring to bear all the experience, common sense and knowledge they possess in weighing the evidence, testimony and the law as charged. Jurors are expected not to rely on private sources of information as discussed above. Jurors should form no opinion until all the evidence is introduced, arguments presented, and instructions on the law are given.
SOME TERMS YOU WILL HEAR IN COURT AND THEIR MEANINGS
ARGUMENT: Closing Statements, the presentation of the review of the evidence and summation by the parties at the end of the case, after all of the evidence is presented and both parties have rested.
BAILIFF: The bailiff is an officer of the court, who serves the court and the jury and maintains order in the court.
CLERK: The clerk sits at the desk by the judge, is an officer of the court and keeps a record of papers filed. He/she has custody of the records of the trial of the case, orders made by the court during the trial and the verdict at the end of the trial.
CROSS-EXAMINATION: The questions which either prosecution or defense ask of the witness.
DEFENDANT: The person charged with an offense.
EXAMINATION, DIRECT EXAMINATION: The questions which either prosecution or defense asks their own client or their own witnesses are often referred to as "examination", "direct examination", or "examination in chief".
EVIDENCE OR EXHIBITS: Objects, including pictures, books, letters and documents are often received in evidence. These are called "exhibits" and are given to the jury to take to the jury room while deliberating.
INSTRUCTIONS OR "CHARGES" TO THE JURY: The outline of the rules of law which the jury must follow in their deliberations in deciding the factual issues submitted to them is called either the judge’s "charge" to the jury or his "instructions" to the jury.
JURY PANEL: The whole number of prospective jurors from which the trial jury is chosen.
OBJECTION OVERRULED: This term means that, in the judge’s opinion, the lawyer’s objection is not well take under the rules of law. The judge’s ruling, so far as a juror is concerned, is final and may not be questioned by him/her.
OBJECTION SUSTAINED: When either prosecution or defense objects to a question or the form of a question, the judge may say "objection sustained." This means that the judge agrees that, under the rules of the law, the lawyer’s objection was well taken. This ruling likewise is not subject to question by jurors.
OPENING STATEMENT: Before introducing any evidence, the prosecution and defense is permitted to tell the jury what the case is about and what evidence he/she expects to present to prove their side of the case.
REST: This is a legal phrase that means the prosecution and defense has concluded the evidence he/she wants to introduce in that stage of the trial.
STRIKING TESTIMONY: On some occasions, after a witness has testified, the judge will order certain evidence stricken from the record and will direct the jury to disregard it. When this is done, the jury will treat the evidence stricken as though it had never been given.
SUBPOENA: The document that is issued for service upon a witness to compel their appearance in court.
VERDICT: The findings made by the jury on the issue submitted to them.
QUESTIONS MOST COMMONLY ASKED ABOUT JURY DUTY
WHY ME? The selection is a random computer pick. These names are taken from the Berkeley County voter’s registration list. This list is updated yearly.
HOW OFTEN CAN I BE CALLED UPON TO SERVE? Once per calendar year from Goose Creek Municipal Court. That does not mean that other courts will not ask you to serve also.
HOW LONG WILL THE TRIAL LAST? Each trial is unique. Trials only last for one evening (typically) in Goose Creek Municipal Court, anywhere from ten minutes to seven or eight hours. You must prepare appropriately for a lengthy trial.
CAN I USE THE PHONE WHILE ON JURY DUTY? During certain periods of time during the trial you will be able to use the phone if the judge permits.
DO I GET PAID FOR JURY DUTY? No, Municipal Courts typically do not pay their jurors.
DO I GET FED IF I’M THERE LATE? No. There are vending machines available for your use, but you must plan meals accordingly before coming to court.
WHAT IF I IGNORE MY JURY SUMMONS OR JUST FORGET ABOUT IT? The judge can find you in contempt of court if you do not appear or contact the court. The sentence is punishable by a fine and/or imprisonment.