Jurors serve in two kinds of cases, criminal and civil. In a criminal case, the
plaintiff is a prosecutor who represents the State of California. The prosecutor
alleges that the defendant committed a crime. The prosecution has the burden of
proving each element of the crimes charged beyond a reasonable doubt. In a civil
case, a person or entity - the plaintiff - asks the Court to protect some right
or help recover money or property from another person or entity - the defendant.
There is a different burden of proof for civil cases.
First the attorney for the plaintiff in a civil trial, or the deputy district
attorney in a criminal trial, will tell the jury what he or she intends to
prove. The attorney for the defense may speak after that or may wait until after
the other side presents its evidence.
After the opening statements, each side in the case will present its evidence.
This is done by calling witnesses, asking them questions and presenting exhibits
such as photographs, papers, charts, weapons or any other evidence to prove its
case. Sometimes the defense in the case will not present evidence. In a criminal
case, the defendant is presumed innocent and the prosecution has the burden of
establishing guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. No criminal defendant is required
to supply a defense. Each side has the opportunity to ask questions of all
witnesses called to testify.
Generally speaking, witnesses, exhibits admitted by the judge, witnesses' sworn
written depositions and any stipulations or agreements between the sides as to
certain facts of the case, are examples of evidence.
Judges and lawyers must follow the Evidence Code, which has been created over
time to insure a fair trial. During a trial, information may come up that cannot
be considered as evidence, and the judge will tell you to not to consider it
when deliberating. The judge decides which evidence is proper or admissible
according to the law. Although the judge decides which evidence you may
consider, you decide if that evidence is believable and how important it is to
After presentation of all the evidence, the attorneys will sum up the case from
their perspectives. Taking turns, each side will tell you what he or she
believes the evidence shows and why it favors his or her side.
The judge will instruct you on your duties as jurors either before or after the
attorneys present their closing arguments. The judge will also tell you about
the law that applies to the case.
After instructions and closing arguments, the bailiff or court attendant will
escort you to the jury room where you and the other jurors will deliberate.
First, you will select one of the jurors as foreperson. He or she leads the
discussion and tries to encourage everyone to join in. Do not be afraid to speak
out during deliberations. The whole idea of a jury is to come to a decision
after full and frank discussion of the evidence and the instructions, based on
calm, unbiased reasoning. In civil cases, it takes nine jurors to reach a
verdict. In criminal cases, the verdict must be unanimous.
When you have reached your verdict - which may come after a few hours or several
days - the foreperson will record your verdict on an official form. The bailiff
will tell the judge you are ready and you will return to the jury box. The judge
will ask if you have reached a verdict. The foreperson will answer, handing the
written verdict to the bailiff for delivery to the judge. The clerk will read it
aloud and mark the record accordingly. Sometimes one or all of the parties will
ask that the jury be "polled". This means that the judge or clerk will ask each
juror individually if this is his or her own verdict. The juror's service will
then be complete in most cases.