Jury duty is an important civic duty. Sure that sounds like a cliché, but it is true. While spending the day at the courthouse may not be your idea of a good time, when you serve on a jury you are literally making the community safer.
This about it this way:
- When it comes to criminal court, your jury service could make your community safer by getting a criminal off the streets.
- When it comes to civil court, your jury service can stop bad behavior by defendants whose behavior has already caused harm to people. A verdict against a liable defendant prevents future injuries to others and preventing dangerous behavior makes our world safer for all of us.
Jury Duty Basics: What You Need to Know About Jury Service
If you’ve received a jury summons or have already been selected to sit on a jury, you probably have a number of questions. The following will cover the most important basics of jury duty.
- The length of your service on a jury depends on the court’s need and the length of the trials in which you may be serving. Jury trials can vary from 1 day to several weeks.
- In Nebraska state courts, for each required day of service you will receive $35.00 plus mileage.
- The clerk of the court will submit your name and address to the county clerk, who will issue your check. If no mileage amount is submitted, the clerk’s office will figure the distance based on their map. Checks are generally mailed out between 2 and 4 weeks after your jury service has ended.
- You should wear comfortable clothing which reflects the seriousness of jury service.
- State law prohibits your employer from penalizing you for taking time off for jury service. You cannot be fired, lose pay (except that your employer may reduce your pay by the $35 per day you receive for jury duty), lose sick leave, or lose vacation time.
Who Serves on a Jury?
Typically the jury pool is drawn randomly from drivers license records or voting registration lists, so the likelihood of being summoned for jury duty are high. However, the odds of actually being selected to serve on a jury are much lower. A 2012 survey found that 27% of U.S. adults said they had served on a jury.
What Jurors Are Asked to Decide
When it comes to criminal trials, you will be asked to determine whether or not the defendant is guilty of the crimes charged by the state. In a civil trial for personal injury claims, you will be asked to determine if the defendant is legally liable for the plaintiff’s injuries, and if so, how much the defendant should pay to compensate the plaintiff.
The Flow of a Trial
The phases of a personal injury trial typically consists of the following six phases:
- Jury selection (also known as voir dire)
- Opening Statements by the Plaintiff’s Attorney then the Defendant’s Attorney.
- Witness testimony and cross-examination.
- Closing Arguments by the Plaintiff’s Attorney then the Defendant’s Attorney.
- Jury instructions are given by the presiding Judge.
- Jury deliberations and verdict.
For in-depth information on the phases of trial, read our article here.
When attorneys are asking potential jurors questions it is called voir dire. During the jury selection process, attorneys will ask questions of potential jurors to determine juror attitudes, biases, and their ability to truly be an impartial juror.
The attorneys will inquire about you personally, and will also ask questions about your friends, families, and acquaintances. This is in an effort to uncover any potential biases for or against one of the parties in the law suit. Learn more in our article Jury Duty: What Kinds of Questions Will Lawyers Ask Me?
At the conclusion of both parties case-in-chief, the Judge will give jury instructions. These instructions provide the jurors with the legal standards they must apply in deciding whether the defendant should be held liable for the plaintiff’s damages.
In the jury instructions the Judge will also lay out findings that the jury will need to make in order to arrive at certain conclusions. The jury instructions are supposed to make the jury deliberations run smoothly and make the job of the jurors easier.
Once jury instructions are delivered, the jury is then excused to deliberate. The jury panel will then review all the evidence that was presented at trial and deliberate. After deliberations, the jury will come to a decision on whether or not the Defendant is legally liable for the Plaintiff’s injuries, and if so, for what amount. Learn more in our article What Happens During Jury Deliberations?
When a jury reaches a verdict, it speaks with a single voice on behalf of everyone in the community. The jury’s verdict in favor of an injured plaintiff is an enforcement of the rules and regulations that protect all of us ― it is a verdict against the wrongful conduct by the defendant. While this cannot undo the harm done to the plaintiff already injured, it can and does prevent future injuries to others.
To those of you who have responded to the call for jury duty, thank you. While you may not be initially excited about jury duty, we hope if you are summoned in the future, you appreciate how important your service will be to stop dangerous behavior, and to making our community safer for our children, families, and neighbors.
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We help people who have been injured in accidents get the compensation they deserve. Contact us or call (402) 558-4900 to schedule a free consultation.
Miller Lathrop serves clients throughout Eastern Nebraska and parts of Western Iowa including Douglas County, Sarpy County, Lancaster County, and Pottawattamie County, as well as the cities of Omaha, Lincoln, Bellevue, Papillion, Fremont, Blair, Elkhorn, and Council Bluffs.