Have you ever been asked to settle a fight between two friends, or two siblings? If so, you already know something about how it feels to be a juror.
Every year, thousands of people in New Jersey serve as jurors in the court system. Serving on a jury is an important job. Jurors make decisions about court cases.
Jurors help make sure that the court system is fair. When a jury decides the outcome of a case, people in the case know that people just like them have listened to both sides and agreed on a fair solution under the law.
There are two kinds of juries in New Jersey: grand juries and petit juries.
A grand jury helps to make sure that people are not brought to court without a good reason. It is a group of 23 people who meet once a week for 16 weeks. They listen to prosecutors, who show and tell them about the facts of a criminal case.
The grand jury decides if there are enough facts for an indictment. An indictment is an announcement that says a person has committed a crime. An indictment does not mean that a person is guilty, only that a person has been accused.
Once the grand jury agrees on an indictment, the case goes to the court. Now the prosecutor must convince another jury that the defendant should be convicted of a crime. For that, the court will need a petit jury.
“Petit” means “small” in Latin. Petit juries in criminal court have 12 people. In a criminal trial, a petit jury listens to the prosecutor and the defendant’s lawyer to decide if the defendant is guilty or innocent. They are not the same people who served on the grand jury.
Petit juries are also used in civil trials. In a civil trial, a person or group sues another person or group, usually for money. A petit jury has six people who listen to a plaintiff and a defendant. A plaintiff is the person or business who wants to show the court that the defendant has hurt them. The defendant is the person or business accused of doing the harm.
Jury service is an important part of the legal system.
A petit juror receives a note called a summons in the mail. It will say when and where to report for jury service. At the end of each day, people at the court decide how many petit jurors they will need for the next day’s trials. Petit jurors are usually asked to check the courts’ website the night before their jury duty is supposed to start, to see if they are still needed the next day. If not, they can go to work or follow their regular routine for the day. That night, they check the website again to see if they are needed the next day. Many finish their jury duty without ever going to the courthouse.
At the courthouse, jurors go to a large room to wait until they are called to a courtroom. This group of people is called the jury pool and is the group from which trial jurors will be selected. Even after they are called to a courtroom, jurors may not end up serving on a trial. The judge asks every juror many questions to be sure that the juror is able to serve on a jury.
For example, the judge will ask a juror if he or she knows the defendant, the victim or the lawyers in the case. If someone in the case is known by a juror, the juror’s like or dislike of that person might affect how the juror sees the facts of the case. A juror, unlike a friend, should not decide an argument between his or her friends or siblings.
Jurors who are not chosen for a case will go back to the jury pool. They may be needed in another courtroom. Those who stay become a part of the trial. They have an important job to do: helping deliver justice to their fellow citizens.
Jurors are chosen at random.
Jurors are picked by computers from many different lists. In New Jersey, people who drive, vote or pay taxes may be chosen for jury service.
Jurors do not have to be a lawyer or know every law.
Jurors do not need to know about the law, but they do need to be good listeners. The judge will tell them which laws should apply to the case that they are hearing.
Jurors are paid a set amount for their service.
In New Jersey, Grand Jurors are paid $5 for each day they serve and Petit Jurors are paid $5 for the first three days they report to the courthouse and are paid $40 per day for each day they serve after three days.
Not everyone is eligible for jury service.
Jurors must be 18 years old and they must be U.S. citizens. They also must be able to read and understand English.