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Many adults have been summoned for jury duty. The experience is roughly the same. You open your mail one day, and an official letter from a state or federal court screams “Jury Summons” to you in large, conspicuous type. Many adults have successfully managed to avoid fulfilling their civic duty to serve as a juror. This article discusses the jury selection process and what jurors can expect if selected to serve on a jury.
Both federal and state jurisdictions randomly select prospective jurors to serve on a jury. The court will mail a summons to the prospective jurors mailing address. The summons will have instructions on how to respond, including how to claim an exemption. Everyone should carefully read the instructions on their summons, whether they intend to serve or not.
Under section 62.103 of the Texas Government Code, the following are exempted from jury service:
- Persons over age 70
- The parent of a minor child, if service would result in inadequate supervision
- Students in secondary school
- University or college students
- Public officials from the legislative branch of the Texas government
- Persons who served on a petit jury in the past 24 months
- Military service members on active duty on assignment away from their county of residence
Juries are selected in a process called “voir dire.” This is where the court determines whether you qualify to serve on a jury.
According to section 62.102 of the Texas Government Code, a qualified juror must:
- Be at least 18 years of age
- Be a citizen and resident of the jurisdiction of jury service
- Qualify to vote in the county they were asked to serve as a juror
- Be of sound mind and good moral character
- Be literate
- Not served as a juror for a total of 6 days in the past 3 months in the county of service
- Not be a convicted or under indictment for misdemeanor theft or a felony
The counsel for the parties also has an opportunity to disqualify people from serving on the jury in their case. Jurors may be excluded for cause. This usually means that the juror has a personal bias concerning the case.
Jurors can also be removed for no reason. These are known as peremptory challenges. Depending on the nature of the case, each party has a limited number of “peremptory challenges.”
Most people use this stage as an opportunity to try to get out of jury service by claiming that they are biased in favor of or against one of the parties. This tactic usually fails because many experienced attorneys can tell when someone tries to do this. Additionally, bias towards one party is an attractive quality to the opposing party.
If you managed to be selected for jury service, congratulations. As a juror, the court will swear you in regarding your duty to act as an objective fact-finder. Jurors are asked to report for service in the morning, although proceedings may not occur until the afternoon.
The court will remind you not to form any conclusions about the case until the parties have submitted all evidence and offered all arguments. Jurors are admonished not to discuss the case with anyone, including the other jurors.
In Texas, Jurors may not ask questions in criminal trials. In the 1992 case Morrison v. State, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals held that if jurors were allowed to ask witnesses questions, their impartiality would be “imperiled.” However, Texas jurors may ask witnesses questions in civil cases.
Making a Decision
When both parties conclude their case, the jury retreats to a room to deliberate the evidence and arguments presented at trial and reach a decision. Jurors may not make an independent investigation of the facts. This is because the justice system wants to give the parties a reasonable opportunity to address evidence against them.
In Texas, the jurors in a criminal trial must reach a unanimous verdict. In civil cases, a substantial majority may be sufficient for a valid verdict.
Need a Dedicated Trial Attorney in Bryan?
At Waltman & Grisham Attorneys at Law, we have proudly represented Bryan residents in for over 30 years in various personal injury matters. We are dedicated to providing you with comprehensive and effective legal representation through every stage of the litigation process – from jury selection to closing statements. You can count on us to zealously advocate for your right to be compensated for injuries someone else wrongfully caused.
Schedule a free complimentary case evaluation with one of our experienced attorneys by calling Waltman & Grisham Attorneys at Law at (979) 227-4888 or contacting us online today.