So you’ve been called for jury duty: What now!?
The day may come when you least expect. That fateful letter with your name on it and your date to attend court for jury duty. Serving on a jury is part of your civic duty – just like voting and paying taxes. Just embrace it and don’t worry, it won’t hurt a bit. So, what can you expect from this?
These were supposed to be our top 10 tips on jury duty, but given the subject, here’s 12:
- You will never know for sure how long jury duty will go for. You might not get chosen for a trial and be back at work by lunch time. You might end up locked into a murder trial for 2 or 3 months.
- If you are looking for tips on how to dodge jury duty then keep scrolling down … and you will find nothing. As inconvenient or disruptive as it may be, jury duty is not a joke. It is a fundamental part of our legal system.
- You won’t lose your job because you’re serving on a jury. In fact, it is a criminal offence for your boss to sack you or demote you because you’re serving on a jury.
- Being a little busy at work or having a runny nose will not get you out of jury duty. Needing help from friends or family with picking up the kids will not do. Just accept you will not be avoiding jury duty. That said, if you know one of the witnesses or lawyers well you sure as hell won’t be in the trial.
- For many jurors it is a tough introduction to a whole new world. There will often be many adjournments while lawyers do what they do: have big legal fights. It can also be fascinating to see conflicting evidence play out in front of you. Just like the movies!
- I have never been in a jury deliberation room and I never will. Admitted lawyers can’t serve in a jury. I will also never know what goes down during deliberations. It is a closely guarded secret so you can all speak your mind. But you will see the full spectrum of emotions. Expect some heated discussions and lighter moments (again, just like the movies – in this case “12 Angry Men”. A classic).
- In the ACT the only acceptable verdict is a unanimous “guilty” or “not guilty”. There will be plenty of time to allow jurors to try and persuade each other. Even if, after long and trying deliberations, 11 out of 12 jurors decide on a guilty verdict with 1 holding out, that is not good enough. The trial must be aborted. Whether there is a retrial down the track is up to the prosecution.
- Both the defence lawyer and prosecutor have the right to “challenge” a number of people and stop them ending up in the jury without any good reason. Jury selection is an art, not a science. There is often no rhyme or reason in which jurors are challenged. My advice is if you are challenged, forget about it and don’t take it personally. There is a reasonable chance you may end up on a jury from another trial anyway. (If you get challenged over and over again maybe it is. Try not looking so judgmental).
- You might have seen shows with juries locked up in hotel rooms for weeks on end. Relax, it aint going to happen.
- Know that at least you will be fed well, paid a little for your service and get plenty of breaks.
- No sub ins. It is an offence to get someone to “personate” you (or attempt to) so don’t go getting one of your mates from the sidelines. It could see you and your mate in the big house together for up to 6 months.
- Even if you don’t get summoned for jury duty you can still end up on a jury. There is a 200 year plus old practice called “praying a tale”. This gives the court sheriff the power to go out into the street and pluck people to sit on a jury – so be careful if you’re hanging round the Court precincts.
I hope this article hasn’t scared you. It is a big responsibility and will not be easy but I believe it is a privilege. To be one of a mix of 12 people randomly chosen in the community judging a stranger’s guilt or innocence is an incredible thing. Whatever the faults in our government and community, they do a lot for us. Make jury duty your chance to give back to the community.