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​We the Jury

The execution of the laws is more important than the making of them.

—Thomas Jefferson

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The Bill of Rights and the Constitution protect citizens' rights to trial by jury. A fair trial is synonymous with a jury trial. Jury duty is a civic duty that is considered a privilege. The jurors have the serious but limited responsibility of deciding on the facts of the case. Jurors do not act as investigators. They have to rely on only the information presented to them by the attorneys. During trial, both attorneys present evidence to the jury. Once the jury hears the case, they deliberate, or decide the case. Deliberation can last anywhere from ten minutes to ten weeks, depending on the case.

 

Burden of Proof

Civil Case: In a civil case, a jury must decide the case by the "preponderance" of the evidence. That means a person wins the case if that person's evidence is the most persuasive, even if it is only a little bit stronger than the other person's evidence.

 

Criminal Case: In a criminal case, a jury must find the defendant "not guilty" unless the prosecution proves beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant is guilty. Sometimes courts try to explain the phrase "beyond a reasonable doubt" in their own words, but its central meaning is just what the words say: the jury can convict a defendant only if the jury is persuaded, beyond any doubt that is reasonable, that the defendant is guilty.

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People's experiences and biases influence what kind of jurors they will be.
A jury that represents a wide variety of people is important to a case. To begin, the Secretary of State compiles a list of valid drivers licenses and state-issued identification cards from which jurors are selected. The attorneys and the judge begin the screening process, called voir dire, by asking potential jurors, or the jury pool, questions about their attitudes and experiences. For example, someone who was a victim of robbery may not serve a jury well on a robbery or assault case. Attorneys also use instinct to decide if a juror will benefit their side of the issue.