Jury Duty

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“Jury Service is one of the highest duties of citizenship, for by it the citizen participates in the adminstration of justice.”      Honorable Harlan F. Stone, Former Chief Justice of the United States


“A trial by a jury of your peers is a right that few countries in the world recognize.  As Americans, and Starke County residents, we should look upon the opportunity to participate as jurors as an important contribution to the integrity of the system of justice in the Starke Circuit Court.  We thank you for the individual sacrifice that each of you makes to serve as a juror in our court. Honorable Kim Hall, Judge, Starke Circuit Court


FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS


1.  Why must I serve on Jury Duty?

The Constitution of the United States and the State of Indiana guarantee defendants in criminal cases and litigants in civil cases the right to a trial by jury.   Indiana law states that all litigants have the right to a jury selected from a fair cross section of the community and that all eligible citizens shall have both the opportunity and obligation to serve.

2.  How are people chosen to be called for jury service?

Starke County jurors are randomly selected from a list compiled by the Indiana Supreme Court that includes information from a variety of sources, including  the Bureau of Motor Vehicles and the Indiana Department of Revenue.   A random selection of 2,000 names of Starke County residents is made at the beginning of each year.  Juror Questionnaire forms are mailed, completed, and returned to the Court.   An individual who qualifies for jury service must be a United States citizen and Starke County resident; at least 18 years of age; able to understand and communicate in English; is not suffering from a physical or mental disability that would prevent the person from rendering satisfactory jury service; is not under a guardianship because of mental incapacity; has not had the right to vote revoked due to a felony conviction and not restored; and is not a law enforcement officer (for criminal trials only).

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Courthouse Foyer

Throughout the year, prospective jurors are selected randomly, by computer, from the 2,000 initial jurors and are sent a juror summons to report to the court on a specific date for a trial.  In 2010, however, the jury pool will be separated into groups of 500, which will rotate every quarter.  Therefore, no person will be eligible to be called for jury service for more than a 3 month period of time throughout the entire year.

On July 1, 2006, juror exemptions were eliminated statewide. This means that no automatic exemptions are available by statute.  All jurors must respond to the court as to why they cannot serve and the determination whether to defer a juror’s service now falls completely on the Court.

3.  Can I postpone my jury service?

The jury rules do allow for a deferment, (postponement), of your service.  The request must be made in writing at the time you return your qualification questionnaire or summons.  An Affidavit for Deferral from Jury Service must be completed and delivered to the Jury Administrator.  Faxes, emails, letters, or your appearance in person are all acceptable methods of requesting a deferral.

4.  How long does a juror serve?

A person who appears for service as a juror serves until the conclusion of the trial in which the juror is sworn, regardless of the length of the trial or the manner in which the trial is disposed.  A person who appears for service but is not selected and sworn as a juror completes their service when jury selection is completed and they are released by the court.

Many trials last one day.  Few trials last longer than three days. The judge will inform the prospective jurors of the expected length of the trial.

5.  Is it true that sometimes jurors are not allowed to go home until after the trial is over? Is this common?

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Courthouse History Display

As a general rule, jurors go home at the end of the day and return the next morning.  In extremely rare instances, a jury may be sequestered during the trial itself.   “Sequestered” means that jurors do not go home at the end of the day, but stay in a hotel, where their access to other people, radio, television news, or newspapers is limited.  The judge or bailiff will inform you in advance if there is a possibility that the jury may be sequestered.

The expense of all meals and lodging for sequestered jurors is the responsibility of the Starke Circuit Court.

6.  Are jurors compensated?

Pursuant to Starke County policy and Indiana State Law, the county will pay jurors a fee of $15 for appearing for selection and $40 for each day of physical attendance on a trial.

7. What about transportation costs?

Starke County provides .40 cents per mile for each round trip made from the juror’s residence to the courthouse as reimbursement for transportation costs.  There is no need to keep track of your mileage.

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8.  What about issues related to the juror’s employment?

Indiana State law prohibits an employer from subjecting an employee to penalties or termination of employment due to jury service- so long as the employee notifies the employer upon receipt of the jury summons.  The question of salary and wages is a matter to be addressed between the juror and the employer.

In order to verify to an employer that jury service was performed, jurors may request that court staff provide them with an attendance/work slip.

Jurors who believe that they have been penalized by their employer due to jury service should contact the Office of the Indiana Attorney General.

9.  Why am I summoned to report for trial and then later told that the trial has been canceled?

The court notifies prospective jurors about 7 to 10 days before a trial is scheduled.  As of that moment, all parties have represented to the court that they are ready for trial.  However, it is not unusual that the parties resolve all issues after the notices have been sent out.  As soon as the court is informed that a trial is no longer needed, the court staff calls all prospective jurors and notifies them that the matter has been resolved.  The court attempts to avoid such inconveniences for jurors.  However, whether to settle a case, and the timing of any settlement of the matter being litigated, is in the hands of the parties.  The exception to this rule is that the court will not accept last minute plea agreements in criminal cases.

10. What is the possibility that a juror will be called again for service in the near future?

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Prior to 2005, jurors had the right to defer their service if they had served in the previous year.  As of January 1, 2005, jurors can request an exemption if they have served (received payment for) jury service within the past two years.  If you have questions about whether you may be exempt because of prior jury service, ask the Jury Administrator.

11. Are the same people summoned every few years?

No.  In December of each year, the Jury Administrator performs the computerized, random selection process that produces the 2,000 names of individuals who will be in the jury pool the following year.  Although the process is fair and impartial, it could result in your name being in the pool in consecutive years.

12. How are jurors with disabilities accommodated?

If you have a disability and need a reasonable accommodation to allow you to serve, the court will try to provide the services or auxiliary aids that you need.  Any access questions or requests for assistance can be conveyed to the Jury Administrator or judge.

13. Who else will be in the courtroom?

A number of people will be in the courtroom in addition to the judge and jury.  The list below explains who they are and what they may be doing.

Plaintiff - In a civil case, the plaintiff is the party who initiates the lawsuit by bringing the case to court.

Defendant - In a civil matter, the defendant is the party who is being sued.  In a criminal case, the defendant is a person who has been charged with a crime.

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Court Chambers

Attorneys or Counsel – In certain cases, including criminal cases, attorneys representing the plaintiff, the defendant, or the government are referred to as counsel.  An attorney representing the State of Indiana in a criminal case is called the prosecuting attorney.

Bailiff - The bailiff is in charge of the jury.  She will often escort you from the jury room to your courtroom seat.  She provides the jury with paper, pens, food, drinks, and anything else that is needed for the jury to satisfactorily render its service.

Court Reporter - The court reporter records the official record of the trial by recording every word which is spoken.  The Starke Circuit Court uses digital recording equipment and microphones are located throughout the courtroom.   Every word spoken while we are “on the record” may later be converted into an official transcript of the trial.

Court Security Officer – The court security officer keeps order, maintains the security of the court, and assists the judge and the jury as needed.

Witnesses - Witnesses provide testimony, under oath, as to what they have seen, heard, or otherwise observed regarding the case.

Interpreter - Interpreters, under oath, provide language interpretation for the court on behalf of a non-English speaking or hearing impaired party or witness.

Courtroom Observers - All jury trials are open to the public.  The Starke Circuit Court has seventy-four seats available for those who wish to observe the proceedings.

If you have any other questions about jury duty, you may contact the court during regular business hours and speak with the Jury Administrator, Donna Davis.  Her direct telephone number is 772-9156.

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The Witness Stand