Justice Column

By: News Release
Oct 1st, 2018

This 93rd Edition of Justice For All is about the duties of a person who is selected to be a juror on a criminal case.

Being summoned for jury duty often happens unexpectedly and can be a source of anxiety. Furthermore, nearly everyone who is called for jury duty has to rearrange their schedule to appear in court on the day they are called which in Clayton County is usually on a Wednesday.

Appearing for jury duty is always a burden on some level but it is an extremely important civic responsibility, and legal requirement, to appear when called and serve when chosen because of the role that anyone who serves on a jury plays.

The Iowa State Bar Association created a model jury instruction that addresses the role of jurors which is regularly adopted word for word by trial judges. Model Instruction Number 100.18 is entitled “Duties of Jurors - Selection Of Foreman/Forewoman.” While the tile references the selection of a foreperson, there is more in this instruction than simply selecting the person who will see to it that deliberations are carried on in an orderly manner with the issues being fully and freely discussed and every juror being given an opportunity to express his or her views.

Remember, you are judges of the facts. Your sole duty is to find the truth and do justice.” These last two sentences of instruction number 100.18 go to the heart of the role the jury plays in a criminal trial. A jury is called in a criminal case when the prosecution charges the defendant with a crime(s) and the defendant denies the charge(s) by pleading not guilty. The jury will be the sole group that decides what truly happened and will render a verdict of guilty or not guilty. Deciding what the truth is in a dispute between the government and an individual places a crucially important responsibility in the hands of twelve citizens who both sides must trust to do justice.

While this article has been a short summary of what a jury does, it’s important to address two things a jury never does. First, in the event of a guilty verdict, the jury has nothing to do with punishment. Sentencing occurs at a later date with the prosecution, defense, and sometimes the Department of Correctional Services making their recommendations before a judge decides what the appropriate sentence is. While jurors are welcome to attend the sentencing hearing for the case they served on they are not required to do so because they play no role in sentencing.

Finally, jurors are never allowed to gather their own evidence or do their own investigations. In fact, there is another model jury instruction which specifically prohibits jurors from seeking out or using any outside information and there are cases in which jury verdicts were overturned because a rogue juror disobeyed this jury instruction. When jurors obtain information about a case outside of what is presented to them during the trial they deny both parties a fair process.

Overall, being called for jury duty means you have the chance to play an essential role in justice for all.



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