Jury Service in Idaho:
What it Means and How it Works
The Importance of Jury Service
The jury system is critical in our system of justice. It assures that litigants will have a fair hearing by fair-minded people. Your service is appreciated by the court and litigants. It is an important civic and community duty. Jury service is a privilege and a responsibility that should be accepted with pride.
How a Jury is Chosen
Your name is drawn at random from a list of voters and licensed drivers or other sources, as deemed appropriate by your county.
A juror summons and questionnaire were sent to you. The summons instructed you to come to the court house to appear if needed as per phone message and call in procedure. The questionnaire asked you questions that will help the judge and attorneys determine your fairness and ability to sit as a juror on a particular case.
After you arrive at the courthouse, you will be directed to a courtroom. All jurors will be asked to rise and to swear or affirm to answer truthfully the questions asked of your concerning your qualifications to act as a juror in the case.
As a prospective juror you will be questioned by the judge and attorneys. This series of questions is sometimes called "vior dire". The judge and lawyers need to determine whether any of you has any information concerning the case or any opinions or attitudes which either of the lawyers believe may cause you to favor or disfavor some part of the evidence or one party or the other. Some of the questions are personal, but they are not intended to embarrass you. They are asked in order to determine if there is any reason you should not sit on the case. Jurors may be excused for legal cause such as a personal or financial relationship with a party. Additionally, each attorney may excuse a limited number of jurors by what are called peremptory challenges.
After the jury has been selected, the jurors will be asked to rise and swear or affirm that they will render a true verdict according to the law and the evidence.
Once the jury is sworn, the judge will give instructions about how the trial will be conducted – generally what the case is about and how the jury is to carry out its responsibilities.
Your duty as a juror is to listen to the judge, witness and lawyers; to deliberate calmly and fairly; and to decide intelligently and justly. Your decision must be made upon the evidence presented to you in court.
Procedure in Trials
The Beginning of the Case. The person who initiates a lawsuit is known as the "plaintiff" in a civil case and the "State" or prosecuting attorney in a criminal case. The person against whom the lawsuit is brought is called the defendant. A lawsuit is begun when the plaintiff or prosecutor files a complaint or information in court. In a civil case the defendant then files an answer which states his side. In a criminal case a defendant enters a plea of not guilty.
After the jury has been selected and sworn the trial of a case proceeds generally as follows:
An opening statement is made by the attorney for both sides. The purpose of the opening statement is to outline to the jury what each side, or party, believes the evidence will establish.
The evidence will be presented for both sides. There may also be rebuttal evidence. Evidence consists of testimony and exhibits. The examination of witnesses by the party calling them is "direct examination". Each party has a right to ask questions of the other party's witnesses. This is "cross examination".
Rules of evidence have been developed through the years so that we may fair and orderly trials. When a question is asked or an item of evidence is offered which either attorney believes is in violation of these rules, the attorney has a right to object to the question or use of the exhibit. The judge decides. At times the jury may be excused from the courtroom while objections are being discussed or for other reasons. Under the law, various matters must be heard out of the presence of the jury.
When all parties have presented their evidence, they "rest". At this time the judge will determine what instructions on the law shall be given to the jury. Each attorney has the right to make suggestions and objections. This process may take some time.
The judge then reads instructions on the law to the jury. The instructions define the issues the jurors must decide and tell the jurors the law that governs the case. You should listen very carefully to these instructions bearing in mind that it is your sworn duty to follow the law as set forth in the instructions. You will have the written instructions for your use in the jury room. The attorneys make their closing arguments in which they summarize the evidence and try to persuade the jury to find in favor of their respective clients. You will go to the jury room to consider the case and reach a verdict. In the jury room you will elect a foreman and review the evidence according to the judge's instructions.
When the jury reaches a verdict the jury will be returned to the courtroom. The judge or the clerk will read the verdict, and the jury may be polled to determine if the verdict that has been read accurately reflects the juror's verdict. Then you will be discharged.
People Involved in a Trial
The conduct of trial involves the following personnel:
Judge – presides over the trial
Clerk – assists the judge and keeps records
Reporter – takes and maintains complete shorthand notes of all proceedings
Bailiff – maintains court order
Attorneys – present their client's case
Parties – the litigants; the persons or businesses who are suing or being sued in a court proceeding. The State of Idaho may be a party.