Have you been summoned for jury duty? You may feel apprehension about your service. Prospective jurors often wonder about what kinds of questions the lawyers will ask, what actually happens in a trial, and what happens during jury deliberations.
What Happens During Jury Deliberations?
After the conclusion of closing arguments from both sides, the presiding judge will give jury instructions. Jury instructions provide the jurors with the legal standards they must apply in deciding whether or not the defendant should be held liable for your damages. The jury is then excused to deliberate.
Once convened to deliberate, the jury collectively will select one person to be the foreperson. The foreperson’s role is to preside over the deliberations and to deliver the verdict in the court room.
The jury panel will then review all the evidence that was presented at trial and deliberate. After deliberations, the jury will come to a decision on whether or not the Defendant is legally liable for the Plaintiff’s injuries, and if so, for what amount.
Jurors should feel free to express their opinions and should also pay attention to the opinions of their fellow-jurors. As a juror you have a duty to base your decision on the law, not your opinion of what the law should be.
The foreperson should focus the discussions and ensure the judge’s instructions concerning the law are at the forefront of the deliberations. Jurors should be mindful of the legal standard by which evidence should be weighed. Your decision in the case must be based on the evidence presented at trial.
Once all of the evidence has been carefully reviewed, the foreperson will call for a vote. Generally, the jury will first determine whether or not the Defendant is liable to pay damages to the Plaintiff. If the jury decides the Defendant is liable, then jurors will decide on the amount of damages owed.
If a consensus is achieved after the foreperson calls for a vote, then the verdict is delivered to the court. If the vote is split, the jury continues to deliberate. In Nebraska, in a civil case if the jury cannot reach a unanimous verdict within 6 hours of deliberations, then a verdict arrived at by 10 of a 12-person jury or 5 of a 6-person jury may be returned.
Jury Duty is an Important Civic Duty
The truth is Jurors make our community safer for all of us.
When a jury reaches a verdict, it speaks with a single voice on behalf of everyone in the community. The jury’s verdict in favor of an injured plaintiff is an enforcement of the rules and regulations that protect all of us — it is a verdict against the wrongful conduct by the defendant. While this cannot undo the harm done to the plaintiff already injured, it can and does prevent future injuries to others.
To those of you who have responded to the call for jury duty, thank you. While you may not be initially excited about jury duty, we hope if you are summoned in the future, you appreciate how important your service will be to stop dangerous behavior, and to making our community safer for our children, families, and neighbors.
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Matthew G. Miller serves clients throughout Eastern Nebraska and parts of Western Iowa including Douglas County, Sarpy County, Lancaster County, and Pottawattamie County, as well as the cities of Omaha, Lincoln, Bellevue, Papillion, Fremont, Blair, Elkhorn, and Council Bluffs.