Jury Duty

In this sec­tion we will be covering:

Jury Sta­tus

Gen­er­al Information

Select­ing Juries for Trial

The Tri­al

Decid­ing a Verdict

Jury Status

Con­tact the War­ren Coun­ty Cir­cuit Court for fur­ther infor­ma­tion, (540) 635‑2435. Their hours of oper­a­tion are 9:00 AM — 5:00 PM. They are locat­ed in the War­ren Coun­ty Cour­t­house, locat­ed at 1 E Main Street, Front Roy­al, VA 22630.

General Information

How was I cho­sen for Jury Service?

In May of each year the Supreme Court of Vir­ginia, Office of Man­age­ment Infor­ma­tion Sys­tems, sends out Jury Ques­tion­naires to numer­ous per­spec­tive jurors in the Coun­ty of War­ren. This list is gen­er­at­ed from Vot­er Reg­is­tra­tion and DMV Records of Cit­i­zens who reside in the Coun­ty of War­ren. These ques­tion­naires are returned to the Cir­cuit Court Clerk for the Coun­ty of Warren.

On July 1 of each year, three (3) Jury Com­mis­sion­ers who are appoint­ed by the pre­sid­ing Judge of the Cir­cuit Court review the returned ques­tion­naires. The pre­sid­ing Judge decides the num­ber of poten­tial jurors to chose from for the year, this num­ber is 1,200 at the present time. The Jury Com­mis­sion­ers must return the list of poten­tial jurors to the Clerk of the Cir­cuit Court by Decem­ber 15th.

The list of poten­tial jurors is then sent to the Man­age­ment Infor­ma­tion Sys­tems Office for the Coun­ty of War­ren. This Office then places the names on a com­put­er diskette, which con­tains a pro­gram to fur­ther ran­dom­ize the list. The com­put­er diskette is then sent back to the Clerk of the Cir­cuit Court. The Clerk then places the infor­ma­tion from the diskette into the courts com­put­er sys­tem. Each term of the Cir­cuit Court, the judge push­es a but­ton on the com­put­er, which caus­es the com­put­er to select 105 poten­tial jurors for each term of court. Dur­ing high pro­file court cas­es, more names may be selected.

Each year 80 Grand Jurors are select­ed for ser­vice using the same sys­tem as dis­cussed above.

Men and women over the age of 18 years and from all walks of life have an equal oppor­tu­ni­ty to be called for jury service.

Do I have to respond to the sum­mons to jury service?

Yes! The sum­mons to jury ser­vice is an offi­cial court sum­mons. If you do not respond, you could be held in con­tempt of court.

What if I can’t per­form jury ser­vice right now?

Your term of jury ser­vice might dis­turb your reg­u­lar pat­tern of work and oth­er activ­i­ties. If this dis­rup­tion caus­es you gen­uine hard­ship and not just incon­ve­nience, it may be pos­si­ble for you to defer your ser­vice to anoth­er time. How­ev­er, this is done only in cas­es of gen­uine hard­ship or need. The judge decides whether your jury ser­vice can be deferred. If you feel that you can­not per­form your jury ser­vice, call the num­ber list­ed on your sum­mons to dis­cuss your situation.

You will not be excused because jury ser­vice is incon­ve­nient or because you have a busy sched­ule, but you may be excused for rea­sons such as phys­i­cal ail­ment. If you have spe­cial con­flicts on par­tic­u­lar days dur­ing the term, the court may excuse you on those days.

What about my Job?

Your employ­er can not fine, demote or oth­er­wise penal­ize you for miss­ing work while per­form­ing jury ser­vice. Many employ­ers will con­tin­ue to pay your salary while you are in jury ser­vice. Con­tact your employ­er to find out what the pol­i­cy is at your job.

Will I be reim­bursed for serv­ing on a jury?

You will be reim­bursed $30 per day for atten­dance for each day you must report to the cour­t­house. The Vir­ginia Gen­er­al Assem­bly sets this amount.

How long will I be in jury service?

Jurors serve one term of court. Depend­ing on where you live, your term may be up to four (4) months. Your sum­mons will indi­cate the length and exact dates of the term you will serve.

What if an unex­pect­ed emer­gency keeps me from com­ing to the cour­t­house while I’m on a jury?

It is very impor­tant that all jurors report each day they are told to report and that they be on time. Your absence may delay a tri­al. If you have an emer­gency (such as sud­den ill­ness or death in the fam­i­ly), call the num­ber on your sum­mons immediately.

How will I know what to expect and what to do dur­ing my jury service?

You will go through an ori­en­ta­tion pro­gram the first time you are required to report for jury duty. The ori­en­ta­tion will inform you of the pro­ce­dures for check­ing in on days you must report to the cour­t­house, how to find out when to report, what the court’s hours are, and what to do if you have an emer­gency dur­ing jury ser­vice. Addi­tion­al­ly, you will learn about your role as a juror and what you should and should not do while in the cour­t­house or serv­ing on jury duty.

I have heard that some­times jurors are not allowed to go home until after the tri­al is over. Will this hap­pen to me?

Usu­al­ly jurors go home at the end of each day and return the next morn­ing. How­ev­er, in extreme­ly rare cas­es, a jury will be “sequestered” dur­ing the tri­al or dur­ing the jury delib­er­a­tions. Sequestered means that instead of going home at the end of the day, jurors stay in hotels, where their access to oth­er peo­ple, radio news, tele­vi­sion news, and news­pa­pers is lim­it­ed. This is done to keep them from acci­den­tal­ly hear­ing some­thing about the tri­al that was not told in court or from being influ­enced by news reports. This is impor­tant because juries must reach their deci­sions based only on what they’ve heard dur­ing the tri­al. In almost all Vir­ginia jury tri­als, how­ev­er, the jury goes home at the end of each day and is sim­ply told by the judge not to dis­cuss the case with any­one, nor to watch, read or lis­ten to news reports about the case. It is essen­tial that you fol­low these instructions.

Is there any­thing I can do to make my jury ser­vice more com­fort­able, con­ve­nient and enjoyable?

Cer­tain­ly! While efforts are made to reduce delay and avoid wait­ing time, you may have to wait a while at the cour­t­house before you find out whether you have been cho­sen to actu­al­ly sit on a jury (the rea­sons why are explained in the next sec­tion). So bring a book, or some oth­er qui­et activ­i­ty, or get to know your fel­low jurors. Remem­ber that as a juror, you are a vital part of the court sys­tem. Part of the job of many court employ­ees, such as the bailiffs and the clerks, is to help make your jury ser­vice com­fort­able and con­ve­nient. Do not be afraid to ask them for help.

Selecting Juries for Trial

Is it pos­si­ble that I might report for jury ser­vice but not sit on a jury?

Yes. The par­ties involved in a case gen­er­al­ly seek to set­tle their dif­fer­ences and avoid the expense and time of a tri­al. Some­times the case is set­tled just a few moments before the tri­al begins. So even though sev­er­al tri­als are sched­uled for a cer­tain day, the court does not know until that morn­ing how many will actu­al­ly go to tri­al. But your time spent wait­ing is not wast­ed — your very pres­ence in the court encour­ages settlement.

How are jurors cho­sen to sit on a jury in a civ­il case?

When a tri­al is ready to begin, the bailiff calls poten­tial jurors into the court­room. If dam­ages of less than $15,000 are claimed in the case, 11 jurors will be called. If dam­ages of more than $15,000 are claimed, 13 jurors will be called. The clerk or bailiff asks poten­tial jurors to stand, hold up their right hand, and swear or affirm that they will truth­ful­ly answer the ques­tions about to be asked of them. The judge will then tell you the names of the par­ties and their attor­neys and briefly explain the nature of the case. The judge will ask if you are relat­ed to any­one involved in the case, have any finan­cial or oth­er inter­est in the out­come of the case, have formed or expressed an opin­ion or have any per­son­al bias or prej­u­dice that might affect how you decide the case. If you do not think you can make a fair and impar­tial deci­sion for any rea­son, you should tell the judge at this time.

The attor­neys for each side might also ask you some ques­tions. If the judge con­cludes that you may not be able to make a fair deci­sion, you will be asked to step down, and anoth­er prospec­tive juror will be brought in to replace you. After the judge decides that all poten­tial jurors are qual­i­fied to fair­ly and impar­tial­ly hear the case, the clerk will com­pile a list of jurors and give it to the attor­neys. Each side will remove three names from the list. They do not have to give a rea­son for remov­ing these names. If the amount claimed is under $15,000, the final jury will have five (5) mem­bers. If the claim is more than $15,000, the jury will have sev­en (7) mem­bers. The remain­ing jurors then swear or affirm that they will hear the case and give a ver­dict they believe to be true. The tri­al is ready to begin.

Why are some jurors removed from the list?

Allow­ing both sides to par­tic­i­pate in select­ing the jury gives the par­ties the oppor­tu­ni­ty to feel that the jury will be fair and impar­tial when it decides the case. Being excused from a jury in no way reflects on your char­ac­ter or your com­pe­tence as a juror, so you should not feel offend­ed or embar­rassed if your name is removed.

How are juries cho­sen in a crim­i­nal case?

The pro­ce­dure for crim­i­nal cas­es is very sim­i­lar to the pro­ce­dure for civ­il cas­es. How­ev­er, 20 prospec­tive jurors are called for a felony tri­al, and the final jury will have 12 mem­bers. For a mis­de­meanor case, the final jury will have sev­en mem­bers. (The dif­fer­ence between felony and a mis­de­meanor case is described in the next section.)

What are alter­nate jurors?

Some­times, when the judge believes that a case is like­ly to last more than a day or two, addi­tion­al jurors will be cho­sen from those sum­moned for jury duty, ques­tioned and chal­lenged like oth­er prospec­tive jurors. The addi­tion­al jurors are cho­sen to avoid hav­ing to retry the case should one or more jurors be excused from the jury dur­ing the tri­al for an emer­gency (such as ill­ness), leav­ing too few jurors to decide the case. Through­out the tri­al, all jurors will sit togeth­er, pay­ing care­ful atten­tion to all the evi­dence. After clos­ing argu­ment and before the jury retires to the jury room to decide the case, the judge will excuse from fur­ther jury duty enough jurors to reduce the num­ber of jurors to the statu­to­ry num­ber need­ed to decide the case.

The Trial

What are my respon­si­bil­i­ties now that I’m part of a jury?

In any tri­al, two kinds of ques­tions will have to be decid­ed at var­i­ous times. These are ques­tions of law and ques­tions of fact. The judge decides the ques­tions of law. You decide the ques­tions of fact. After you have decid­ed the ques­tions of fact, you will apply the law to the facts as direct­ed by the judge at the end of the trial.

What is a “ques­tion of law”?

Ques­tions of law involve the deter­mi­na­tion of what the law is. They may be about pro­ce­dur­al mat­ters (what infor­ma­tion can be admit­ted as evi­dence, what kind of ques­tions can be asked, which wit­ness­es can appear, and what can they tes­ti­fy about). Or they may involve ques­tions of sub­stan­tive law, which cre­ate, define and reg­u­late the rights of parties.

What is a “ques­tion of fact”?

Quite sim­ply, it is decid­ing what real­ly hap­pened in a case. Do not be sur­prised if the evi­dence giv­en by both sides is con­flict­ing or if the tes­ti­mo­ny giv­en by one wit­ness con­tra­dicts anoth­er. After all, if every­one was in agree­ment about what hap­pened and what should be done about it, the dis­pute prob­a­bly would not be in court, and a jury prob­a­bly would not be need­ed. Your job is to lis­ten to all the tes­ti­mo­ny, con­sid­er all the evi­dence, and decide what you think real­ly happened.

Who else will be in the court­room? What will they be doing?

A num­ber of peo­ple will be in the court­room besides the judge, the jury and attor­neys. The list below explains who they are and what they will be doing.

  • Plain­tiff (civ­il case)– In a civ­il case, the per­son who brought the case to court is called the plaintiff.
  • Defen­dant (civ­il case)– The per­son being sued in a civ­il case is called the defendant.
  • Defen­dant (crim­i­nal case)– A per­son who has been charged with a crime is the defen­dant in a crim­i­nal case.
  • Attor­neys or coun­cil — Attor­neys rep­re­sent­ing the plain­tiff, defen­dant or the gov­ern­ment in a crim­i­nal case are also referred to as coun­sel. Depend­ing on who they rep­re­sent and what court you are in, you may hear them called “coun­cil for the plain­tiff”, “plain­tiff’s attor­ney”, “coun­sel for the defen­dant”, or “defense attor­ney”. An attor­ney rep­re­sent­ing the gov­ern­ment in a crim­i­nal case is called the pros­e­cut­ing or Com­mon­wealth’s attorney.
  • Court Reporter– The court reporter keeps the offi­cial record by record­ing every word spo­ken dur­ing the trial.
  • Bailiff– The bailiff keeps order, main­tains the secu­ri­ty of the court and helps the judge and the jury as needed.
  • Clerk of Court– The clerk of court, also called the clerk, main­tains the court files and pre­serves the evi­dence pre­sent­ed dur­ing the tri­al. The clerk may also admin­is­ter the oaths to jurors and witnesses.
  • Wit­ness­es– Each side in a tri­al will prob­a­bly have a num­ber of wit­ness­es who have infor­ma­tion about the dis­pute. Very often the judge will ask them to wait out­side the court­room until it is their turn to tes­ti­fy. This is done so they will not hear each oth­er’s tes­ti­mo­ny and be influ­enced by it.

What hap­pens dur­ing a civ­il trial?

After the clerk or bailiff has sworn in the jury, the case is ready to begin. Both attor­neys may make open­ing state­ments explain­ing their clien­t’s posi­tion and out­lin­ing the evi­dence they expect to present that will sup­port their claims. These state­ments are not evi­dence and should not be con­sid­ered as such. The wit­ness­es for the plain­tiff are then called and ques­tioned by the attor­ney for the plain­tiff and cross-exam­ined by the attor­ney for the defen­dant. After cross-exam­i­na­tion, the plain­tiff’s attor­ney may reex­am­ine some of the wit­ness­es. After all the plain­tiff’s wit­ness­es have been called and all the plain­tiff’s evi­dence has been pre­sent­ed, the attor­ney will tell the judge that the plain­tiff rests.

Wit­ness­es for the defen­dant may then be called. This time, the defen­dan­t’s attor­ney ques­tions the wit­ness­es and the plain­tiff’s attor­ney cross-exam­ines them. When all the defen­dan­t’s wit­ness­es and evi­dence have been pre­sent­ed, the defense will rest. After the defen­dant has fin­ished, the plain­tiff has the right to offer tes­ti­mo­ny in reply.

The judge and the attor­neys will then go to the judge’s cham­bers to con­sid­er the instruc­tions the judge will give the jurors about the law of the case (this is dis­cussed below). After the judge has decid­ed on the instruc­tions, the judge and the attor­neys will return to the court­room. The judge reads the jury instruc­tions to the jury, and then the attor­neys make their clos­ing argu­ments. The clos­ing argu­ments let each attor­ney tell the jury what they think the evi­dence proves and why their client should win. These clos­ing argu­ments may help jurors recall many details of the case, but they are not evi­dence. The plain­tiff’s attor­ney speaks first, fol­lowed by the defen­dan­t’s attor­ney. Final­ly, the plain­tiff’s attor­ney speaks again and clos­es the case.

What are Jury Instructions?

Jury instruc­tions tell the jury what the laws are that gov­ern a par­tic­u­lar case. Each attor­ney gives the judge a set of pro­posed jury instruc­tions. The judge con­sid­ers each instruc­tion and gives the one that prop­er­ly states the law that applies to the case. The jurors must accept and fol­low the law as instruct­ed by the judge, even though they may have a dif­fer­ent idea about what the law is or ought to be.

Who awards dam­ages in a civ­il case?

In a civ­il case, the jury not only decides on a ver­dict for one side or the oth­er, but also awards dam­ages. That is, if the jury deter­mines that an award of mon­ey should be made, the jury decides how much mon­ey should be paid.

How are crim­i­nal cas­es tried?

Crim­i­nal cas­es are very sim­i­lar to civ­il cas­es, except instead of a plain­tiff, there is a pros­e­cut­ing attor­ney. The pros­e­cut­ing attor­ney may rep­re­sent either the Com­mon­wealth (the state) or a city, coun­ty or town.

What are the two types of crim­i­nal cases?

There are two kinds of crim­i­nal cas­es: Felonies and Mis­de­meanors. A felony offense is one that can be pun­ished by death or by a prison sen­tence of a year or more. If the felony offense is one that can be pun­ished by death, it is called a cap­i­tal offense. If the max­i­mum pun­ish­ment allowed by law is less than one year in con­fine­ment or only a fine, the offense is called a misdemeanor.

Who sets the pun­ish­ment in a crim­i­nal case?

If the jury finds the defen­dant guilty in a crim­i­nal case, they set the pun­ish­ment at the same time they decide the ver­dict. After a guilty ver­dict in a cap­i­tal case, how­ev­er, the jury will hear evi­dence in a sep­a­rate pro­ceed­ing before decid­ing on the penalty.

Why do the attor­neys object to cer­tain state­ments or evidence?

An impor­tant part of an attor­ney’s job is to pro­tect the clien­t’s rights dur­ing a tri­al. This includes mak­ing sure that the only evi­dence pre­sent­ed dur­ing the tri­al is evi­dence that is prop­er, rel­e­vant and allowed by law. So if evi­dence is sub­mit­ted that the attor­ney feels is improp­er, or if the attor­ney feels that the oth­er side is ask­ing ques­tions that are unlaw­ful, the attor­ney will call out, “Objec­tion!” By doing this, the attor­ney is ask­ing the judge to rule on whether the law allows that par­tic­u­lar piece of evi­dence or state­ment or ques­tion to be admit­ted. If the judge thinks it should be admit­ted, the judge will say, “Objec­tion Over­ruled” or just “Over­ruled”. If the judge agrees that the evi­dence in ques­tion is improp­er, the judge will say, “Objec­tion Sus­tained”. How often an attor­ney rais­es objec­tions dur­ing the tri­al should not bias you against that attor­ney’s case.

Why is the jury some­times asked to leave the court­room in the mid­dle of a trial?

The judge may decide to send the jury from the court­room in the mid­dle of a tri­al. While the jury is gone, the attor­neys and the judge will dis­cuss points of law or whether cer­tain evi­dence can be admit­ted. The pur­pose of these dis­cus­sions is to make sure that the jury hears only the evi­dence that is legal­ly valid before mak­ing its deci­sion. You will be called back to the court­room when the judge’s deci­sion is made.

What should I do when tes­ti­mo­ny is strick­en from the record?

You must dis­re­gard that tes­ti­mo­ny. Some­times the jury hears tes­ti­mo­ny that the judge lat­er decides it should not have heard. The judge will tell the jury to con­sid­er the case as if it had nev­er heard it. You must fol­low the judge’s instruc­tions if the par­ties in the case are to receive a fair trial.

Can I talk to any­one about the tri­al while it is going on?

No. As long as the tri­al is still going on, do not dis­cuss the tri­al with any­one. Do not even dis­cuss the case with your fel­low jurors until you begin your delib­er­a­tions. When the tri­al is over, you can dis­cuss it with any­one if you want to, or you may keep silent if you prefer.

Can I watch news reports of the tri­al or read news­pa­per accounts of it?

No, not as long as the tri­al is still going on.

What if I acci­den­tal­ly hear some­thing about the tri­al out­side the court­room, or if some­one con­tacts me about the tri­al while it is still going on, or if I real­ize dur­ing the tri­al that I have some spe­cial infor­ma­tion that relates to the case?

Ask the bailiff to tell the judge imme­di­ate­ly what has hap­pened. Tell no one about the inci­dent, except the bailiff or the judge.

What if I need a break dur­ing the trial?

Jurors are giv­en lunch breaks and may be giv­en oth­er breaks dur­ing a tri­al. If it is absolute­ly nec­es­sary that you take a break for some oth­er rea­son at any time dur­ing the tri­al, tell the bailiff or the judge. But note that these requests are high­ly unusu­al and should be made only if absolute­ly necessary.

Deciding a Verdict

What hap­pens after the clos­ing arguments?

After the judge gives you your instruc­tions and you hear the attor­neys’ clos­ing argu­ments, you leave the court­room and go to the jury room to begin your delib­er­a­tions. “Delib­er­a­tion” is the process the jury uses to reach its ver­dict. Dur­ing delib­er­a­tions, the jury will dis­cuss evi­dence and review law and facts.

Will any­one be in the jury room besides the jury?

No. But if you have any ques­tions or need any help, the bailiff will be nearby.

What is the first thing we do?

The first thing you should do is elect one mem­ber of the jury to pre­side over the delib­er­a­tions, see­ing that every­one has an oppor­tu­ni­ty to par­tic­i­pate and that the dis­cus­sions remain order­ly. The per­son cho­sen to pre­side takes part in the delib­er­a­tions and votes on the ver­dict along with every­one else.

What if we do not under­stand the jury instructions?

You may take writ­ten copies of the jury instruc­tions to the jury room with you. If you do not under­stand the instruc­tions, you may ask the judge to explain them to you. It is usu­al­ly best to put your ques­tions in writ­ing and ask the bailiff to give them to the judge, since the judge will dis­cuss the ques­tions with the attor­neys before answer­ing them.

How should we con­duct our deliberations?

Each juror may have a dif­fer­ent opin­ion at the start of delib­er­a­tions. To reach a deci­sion, some jurors may have to change their opin­ion. You should keep an open mind; lis­ten care­ful­ly to oth­er peo­ple’s opin­ions, and the rea­sons for their opin­ions. You should be pre­pared to tell the oth­er jurors what you think and why you think it. Be fair and care­ful­ly con­sid­er what your fel­low jurors are say­ing. Do not let your­self be intim­i­dat­ed into chang­ing your opin­ion, and do not intim­i­date any­one else. Change your opin­ion only if you gen­uine­ly agree with what anoth­er juror is say­ing. After a full dis­cus­sion of the issues, the jury should be able to reach a deci­sion that each juror can agree to with a clear conscience.

Do we all have to agree?

Yes. Every juror must agree on the ver­dict. This is known as a unan­i­mous verdict.

What should we do after we have reached our verdict?

The per­son cho­sen to pre­side will write down the jury’s ver­dict on a form pre­pared by the judge, sign it, and noti­fy the bailiff that a ver­dict has been reached. The bailiff will noti­fy the judge, who will call every­one, includ­ing the jury, back to the court­room. The clerk or judge will ask for the jury’s ver­dict and read it out loud. The judge will then ask the attor­neys if they wish to have the jury polled. “Polling a jury”, means that the clerk will ask each juror indi­vid­u­al­ly if this is their ver­dict, and each juror must answer out loud. After the ver­dict and deci­sion on award or pun­ish­ment is announced, the judge will dis­miss the jury.