Steps in a jury trial Essay

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Steps in a jury trial

A jury trial is a manifestation of democracy, wherein ordinary citizens have their cases heard and deliberated by people like themselves. A jury trial, based on the idea of an impartial jury, can serve justice, because they are mandated to deliberate on the facts of the case alone. This paper analyzes the steps in a jury trial, including the constitutional trial rights that are enacted during a jury trial.

The jury trial rights are expressed in the U.S. Constitution in three ways: the grand jury, the criminal jury, and the civil jury. The Fifth Amendment provides the right to a grand jury: “No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury…”

The Sixth Amendment states the importance of an “impartial” and fair jury to criminal proceedings: “In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district…” The Seventh Amendment asserts the right of the people to a civil jury: “In Suits at common law, where the value in controversy shall exceed twenty dollars, the right of trial by jury shall be preserved…”

This paper proceeds to the steps in a jury trial. The first step is the selection of a jury. The trial court judge mails a request to a panel of prospective jurors to attend the jury assembly room for the purposes of the jury selection process (Judicial Council of California [JCC], 2010).

After the arrival of the jurors, the judge and lawyers ask the jurors questions for the purpose of assessing, whether the jurors are free of bias, or prejudice, or anything that might obstruct with their ability to be fair and impartial, in a process called voir dire. It is important to find a fair and impartial jury, which the Sixth Amendment asserts. The Fifth Amendment also stresses that the accused in a criminal case has a right to a trial by a fair and impartial jury.”In essence, the right to jury trial guarantees to the criminally accused a fair trial by a panel of impartial, ‘indifferent’ jurors.”[1]

The law permits the judge and the lawyers to “excuse” some jurors from service for diverse reasons (JCC, 2010).    If a lawyer seeks to have a juror excused, he or she must use a “challenge” to excuse the juror (JCC, 2010).   There are two kinds of challenges: for cause or peremptory. Under a for cause challenge, the law provides several reasons that jurors may be excused “for cause” (JCC, 2010).

For example, a juror who is related to one of the parties in the case may be excused for cause. There is no limit to the number of for cause challenges. As for a peremptory challenge, this is a challenge given without the need to provide a reason. The law provides only 10 peremptory challenges in criminal cases and 6 in civil cases (Code of Civil Procedure sec. 231 as cited in JCC, 2010). The procedure of questioning and excusing jurors will continue, until 12 persons are chosen as the jurors for the trial (JCC, 2010).

The second step is the trial itself. There are three main duties of the juror: 1) Jurors should not speak to others about the case, especially the lawyers and parties from either side, and even with their family and friends. It is important to avoid being influenced by other people who have not heard the whole facts of the case; 2) Jurors should not make a conclusion about the case without hearing all the facts.

 Jurors should only discuss their opinions with fellow jurors and it is their duty to deliberate the facts of the case; 3) Jurors should not conduct a personal investigation of the case (JCC, 2010). If they have questions about the evidence, they should ask the bailiff about it, and he/she will make further decisions (JCC, 2010).

During the trial, the jurors will listen to the opening statements of the lawyers (JCC, 2010).   The lawyer for the plaintiff in a civil case or the prosecutor in a criminal case may make an opening statement which expresses their viewpoints about the evidence (JCC, 2010).   The defendant’s lawyer may also provide an opening statement after the plaintiff’s attorney (JCC, 2010).  Afterwards, the lawyers will present the evidence, in forms of written documents or objects, which will all be called as Exhibits (JCC, 2010).  After the presentation of the evidence, the lawyers will present their closing arguments (JCC, 2010).

A critical part of the jury trial is the deliberation. After a trial, the jury proceeds to an assigned private room to discuss evidence and testimony, so that it can reach a verdict. Jurors also have a duty to select a foreperson. The jury should select a competent foreperson. The foreperson’s responsibility is to see that discussion is facilitated in an organized manner, all issues are completely and freely deliberated, and all jurors are allowed to freely participate in the discussions (JCC, 2010).

The final stage in a jury trial is the verdict. All jurors should discuss and vote on each issue of the case. In a civil case, the judge will inform the jurors how many of them must agree in order to reach a verdict. In a criminal case, the unanimous agreement of all 12 jurors is compulsory (JCC, 2010).[2]

People have a right to a jury trial, wherein the jury is impartial and fair. The Constitution provides for this right, as well as the rights of the jurors to have an open and complete deliberation on the facts of the case. The jurors, thus, must be aware of their rights and duties. Being a juror means that they are expected to be people of integrity and to seriously pursue their duties. For in every verdict they provide, lay the fate of fair and truthful convictions.


Dennis v. United States, 339 U.S. 162, 171-172, 94 L.Ed. 734, 742, 70 S. Ct. 519 (1950).

Fifth Amendment.(no date). U.S. Constitution. Retrieved May 31, 2010 from

Irvin v. Dowd, 366 U.S. 717, 722, 6 L.Ed. 2d 751, 755, 81 S. Ct. 1639 (1961).

Judicial Council of California (JCC). (2010). Trial process: Three main steps of a jury trial. Retrieved May 31, 2010 from

Seventh Amendment. (no date). U.S. Constitution. Retrieved May 31, 2010 from

Sixth Amendment. (no date). U.S. Constitution. Retrieved May 31, 2010 from

United States District Court . (no date). The Eastern District of North Carolina, New Bern Division.

[1] See Irvin v. Dowd, 366 U.S. 717, 722, 6 L.Ed. 2d 751, 755, 81 S. Ct. 1639 (1961).

[2] What happens when there is no verdict? “If a jury cannot arrive at a verdict within a reasonable time and indicates to the judge that there is no possibility that they can reach a verdict, the judge, in his or her discretion, may dismiss the jury. This situation is a mistrial, sometimes referred to as a “hung jury,” and may mean the case goes to trial again with a new jury” (JCC, 2010).

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