Jury Duty

You have just received notice that you have been selected for jury service in the 59th District Court, what should one expect?

1. When and where must I report for juror service?
You must report on the date and time as indicated on the summons which you have received.

2. Whom should I notify if I cannot appear for jury service?
Write a letter to Hon. Peter P. Versluis, 3161 Wilson Ave., Grandville, MI 49418 or 
4343 Remembrance Rd., NW, Walker, MI 49534.

3. How long will the trial last?
Most trials last one day. If a trial is expected to last more than one day, you will be informed at the time of the jury selection. Generally the court is in session until 5:00 p.m. but sometimes it goes later. The judge may give the jury the option of whether to complete the trial or return the next day.

4. How long will I serve as a juror?
The summons which you receive will indicate the day(s) you are to serve. You will then be exempt from jury duty in this court and other courts in the State of Michigan for one year. We know that you are a busy person and we have tried to make jury duty as convenient as possible for you.

5. If I have a problem concerning my jury service, will I be given an opportunity to discuss it with the judge?
You should first write a letter to the judge before your first day of jury service explaining your problem. At the time of the jury selection you will be given an opportunity to discuss any problems regarding urgent personal matters of jurors and employers as to possible postponements, limitations on the length of jury service, compensation, qualifications for jury service, and any other condition of jury service.

6. What happens if there is an emergency while I am serving on the jury?
If there is an emergency, you may be contacted via the court's phone number, Grandville Court 538-9660 or Walker Court 453-5765. The judge will decide what to do.

7. What do I do if I am not feeling well or if I have some personal problem while serving on the jury?
You should feel as comfortable as possible during your jury service. If you need help, bring the matter to the attention of the court staff and we'll try to help. If you cannot hear a witness or have to take a break during the trial, please raise your hand and let the judge know of your problem.

8. What is the likelihood that I will actually be selected on a jury?
The probability is about 50 percent. Six people will be selected on a trial but we summons more than 6 people in case some jurors are excused for cause or on peremptory challenges.

9. How was I chosen for juror service?
You were chosen at random from the list of licensed drivers and state ID cards. Some people think that if they do not register to vote, they will not be called as a juror. We no longer use voter registration lists for our jury panels.

10. Are many people excused from serving on a jury?
No. Jury service is a civic duty which every citizen must perform. Doctors, nurses, lawyers, clergy, homemakers, legislators, police, firefighters, public officials, executives, laborers, teachers, students, and judges must serve. Your fellow jurors will be men and women, young and old, rich and poor, from different ethnic origins, and religious backgrounds. The law has no class exemptions. Based on individual difficulties the judge will excuse some people or postpone their service dates. You will see that jurors represent a cross-section of the community by your own observation of your fellow jurors.

11. What is a criminal case?
A criminal case is a dispute between the government and an individual in which the government is represented by an assistant prosecutor or assistant city attorney. The defendant's attorney is referred to as the defense counsel.

12. What is a civil case?
A civil case is a dispute between two or more parties in which the plaintiff(s) accuse(s) the defendant(s) of violating some rule of civil law which has caused injury or damage to the plaintiff. The plaintiff is seeking money damages from the defendant. Either party may be an individual or a corporation or a government.

13. How does the court resolve cases?
The court takes two steps to resolve cases. First, it determines the truth or facts. Second, it applies the proper rules of law in order to resolve the dispute.

14. What is the jury's role in resolving cases?
The jury determines the facts based on the evidence presented in court. The judge will inform you of the law you are to apply.

15. What does the judge do in the trial?
The judge performs several functions. The judge guides and controls the conduct of the entire trial. The judge presides over the presentation of the evidence to the jury by the parties and determines what evidence is legally admissible. The judge also instructs the jury of the proper rules of law to use in deciding the case.

16. What do the lawyers do in the trial?
The lawyers represent and advise their clients on all aspects of the trial. The lawyers usually make opening statements to tell the jury of what evidence they expect to introduce. Lawyers may present to the jury the evidence essential to their clients' claims or defenses. They may attempt to demonstrate the weaknesses in the other side's evidence. The lawyers present evidence by asking questions of witnesses and introducing exhibits. The lawyer's questioning of a witness called by that lawyer is "direct examination" while the questioning of a witness for the other side is "cross examination". In their closing arguments, the lawyers may review and sum up the evidence, comment on the reliability or lack of reliability of various witnesses, urge inferences favorable to their clients, and attempt to persuade the jury of the merits of the claims of their clients. During the trial the lawyers may present arguments to the judge on points of law and legal procedure. These arguments are often discussed at the judge's bench out of the hearing of the jury or during a recess to avoid the accidental disclosure to the jury of inadmissible evidence.

17. What is evidence?
Evidence includes testimony, i.e. the answers to the questions put to witnesses and documents called exhibits (such as letters, contracts, or photographs). Not everything heard and seen in the courtroom is evidence. The opening statements and closing arguments of the lawyers are not evidence. Even the statements and instructions of the judge are not evidence. The judge in his instructions at the end of the trial will explain this more fully.

18. What is meant by the rule that a case must be decided solely on the evidence?
This means that you must decide the case only on the evidence admitted in the trial. You should not consider anything you may have heard or seen outside of the courtroom or anything you may have read in the newspapers or anything you may have seen or heard on television or radio. You may use your own general knowledge and experience, of course.

19. What are jury deliberations?
After the jury has heard and observed all of the evidence and after the judge has given the instructions of law, the jury is sent to a private room to make its decisions in the case. This process is called jury deliberations. 

20. How is the foreman of the jury selected? What does the foreman do?
The jury selects the foreman at the beginning of the deliberations. The foreman is a discussion-leader of the jury during its deliberations. It is similar to being the chairperson of a committee or a moderator of a group. The foreman should encourage a full and free exchange of comments, observations, and opinions from all members of the jury. The foreman should ensure that only one person speaks at a time, that every person has an opportunity to express views, and that no person monopolizes the deliberations. The foreman also has the responsibility for communicating requests or questions on behalf of the jury to the judge and to report the jury's verdict in the courtroom. The foreman should express his or her opinions during deliberations, but these opinions are entitled to no more or less weight than those of other jurors. When votes are taken, the foreman has one vote.

21. What is a verdict?
During its deliberations, the jury decides the facts and applies the judge's instructions of law to them. A verdict is the final decision of the jury. Verdict means to "speak the truth". In a criminal case the verdict is "guilty" or "not guilty". In a civil case the verdict is "for the plaintiff" or "for the defendant". If the verdict in a civil case is for the plaintiff, the jury also decides as a part of the verdict, the amount of money damages the defendant must pay to the plaintiff. In some cases, the judge may direct the jury to answer special questions that relate to issues in the case.

22. In order to reach a verdict, what consensus must be reached?
In every criminal case, there must be unanimous agreement, that is, all 6 jurors must agree, before a verdict can be reached. In a civil case five out of six jurors must agree.

23. What are the most important qualifications of a juror?
The most important qualifications of a juror are fairness and impartiality. The juror must be led by intelligence, not by emotions; must put aside all bias and prejudice; must decide the facts and apply the law impartially. The juror must treat with equal fairness the rich and the poor, the old and the young, men and women, corporations and individuals, government and citizens, and must render justice without any regard for race, color, or creed.

24. Before I am selected for a particular jury, will I be asked questions and why?
Before a jury is selected, the judge and lawyers will acquaint the jurors with the parties, witnesses, and circumstances in the case. Some or all of the following questions may be asked: Do you know any of the parties or witnesses or lawyers in this case? Do you have any prior knowledge of this case? Have you formed or expressed an opinion about this case or this type of case? Do you have any bias or prejudice against either side? Do you have any personal interest in the case? Is there any other reason why you would not be impartial if you served as a juror in this case? These questions are intended to insure that the jurors will be fair and impartial. If your answer to any of these questions is "yes", or if there is any reason why you cannot be indifferent in the case, you should raise your hand and bring the matter to the attention of the judge. The judge will then decide whether or not you should be excused from that case.