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US Government

Serving on a Jury

The Sixth Amendment to the Constitution guarantees the right to a trial by jury. A jury is a group of people who decide the verdict of a court case. In the United States there are three types of juries: grand juries, criminal petit juries, and civil juries.

Do all trials have a jury?

Not all trials are jury trials. Many smaller cases are tried by the judge without a jury. Jury trials are for criminal cases where the punishment is more than 6 months in prison or for large civil cases.

Who can serve on a jury?

To serve on a federal jury a person must be a U.S. citizen, be at least 18 years old, speak and understand English, and have no felony convictions.

Jury box
Jury box where the jurors sit during a trial
(Webster County, Nebraska Courtroom
by Ammodramus)
How many people are on a jury?

Most juries have twelve members, but some have as few as six. The number depends on the state where the trial is being held and type of trial.

How are potential jurors picked?

Potential jurors are randomly picked from a list of registered voters or driver's licenses in the area where the trial is taking place.

Jury Selection

Before the trial begins, a number of potential jurors will go to the courtroom for the jury selection. During this time, the judge and the lawyers from both sides will question the jurors. They then will select the jurors that they think can most fairly decide the case.

Responsibility of a Juror

Members of a jury have important responsibilities. In many cases they are deciding whether someone will go to jail or not. They need to pay attention to all the court proceedings and follow the judge's instructions. The jurors are not supposed to discuss the court case with other people. They also shouldn't read or watch news reports about the case. The only influence on the juror should be from the evidence presented in the court.

Deciding a Verdict

Once all of the facts have been presented to the jury, the jury must decide the verdict. In many cases, the jury must make a unanimous decision. This means that all the jurors must agree. The jurors must decide the verdict based on the evidence and the law as instructed by the judge. They shouldn't take their personal opinions or feelings into account when deciding the verdict.

In many cases, if the jury cannot come to a unanimous decision, then the judge will call a "hung jury." If this happens, then the trial is over and the case may be tried again with a new jury.

Interesting Facts about Serving on a Jury Activities To learn more about the United States government:

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Works Cited

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