You as a Juror
You have been selected by law to act as an officer of this court by serving as a juror. Because this may be the first time that you have ever been called for jury service, this pamphlet of information has been provided you and you are urged to read it very carefully. The information in this pamphlet is not intended to take the place of the instructions given by the judge in any case. In the event of a conflict, the judge's instructions will prevail.
As citizens of South Carolina, and of the United States, each of us has an obligation to make a contribution to the American system of justice. You are now being called upon to participate in one of the cornerstones of the judicial process-trial by jury. The mandate of justice for all can only be achieved through the combined efforts of judges, lawyers and citizens serving as jurors. Your role as juror, as the "judge" of the facts, will require you to carry out your duties attentively, intelligently and fairly Remember, your vote as a juror is usually final.
Upon reaching the courthouse, jurors should report to the courtroom or juror room as instructed. Every reasonable effort will be made by the court to make your service as a juror comfortable and without inconvenience. Cases set for trial may be postponed or settled just as they are scheduled to begin, which causes delays. Please help the court operate more smoothly by being patient and cooperative and by being on time as instructed. It may happen that during your service as a juror you may never be called upon to actually sit in on the trial of a case--but your very presence and availability as a juror is a contribution of inestimable importance.
The juror's roll call is held in the courtroom or jury pool room to which you were instructed to report. When your name is called, you should be prepared to stand and give your name and occupations. After the roll call, the presiding judge may ask certain questions to determine whether each juror is a resident of the county and state and is qualified to serve as a juror. At the end of each day or if dismissed earlier, you should make sure that you understand where you are to report for service the following day. Each morning as you report to the appointed courtroom or jury pool room, roll call will be held to record your presence. When you are on duty as a juror your proper place is that area which has been set apart for jurors.
Selection of the Jury
The first step in the actual trial of a jury case is the selection from the jury panel of the number of jurors required to try the case-sometimes six, but most often twelve. At the beginning of this process, there are usually from fifty to sixty prospective jurors present in the courtroom.
The juror selection process in any particular case usually begins with a brief explanation by the judge of the general nature of the case and the names of the parties and their attorneys. The judge then begins the procedure by the questioning of the jurors so as to determine their fitness to serve as a juror. Some questions may be directed to all the jurors at once, while others may be directed to individual jurors. The types of questions asked are determined by the judge with suggestions from the attorneys representing the parties and may inquire as to whether a juror has any knowledge of the case. The questioning process, called voir dire, is designed to permit the attorneys to become acquainted with the prospective jurors and to determine whether a juror can serve fairly and impartially in the case.
If during the questioning, a prospective juror indicates by his answer that he or she is not legally qualified to act as a juror (as for instance, if the juror was related to or employed by one of the parties), that juror may be excused "for cause." This excuse "for cause" may be on the judge's initiative or upon motion of one of the parties' attorneys, but there is no limit to the number of jurors who may be excused for cause. After voir dire has been concluded, and there are no further "challenges for cause" by either attorney, the attorneys may finally choose their jury by exercising a certain number of "peremptory challenges." This means that each attorney may excuse a certain number of jurors without having to show a reason. A juror who is challenged and thereby excused from service should not be offended, as each attorney has a different idea as to the type of juror that would be most beneficial to the trial of the case.
The manner in which the peremptory challenge period is conducted varies between civil and criminal cases. In civil cases, a blind person or a child draws from the jury panel box a total of twenty names. These are written down by the clerk and a copy is given to the attorneys for both sides. The attorneys then strike jurors by number until the plaintiff and the defendant have each struck four names. The remaining twelve names make up the jury. The clerk calls out the names and these people take their seats in the jury box. The judge appoints one of the jurors to act as foreman.
In criminal cases, the blind person or child draws a name and hands it to the clerk. The clerk calls out the name of the juror. This juror comes forward and stands in front of the jury box. The clerk says, "what sayeth the State?" The Solicitor, representing the State, will say either (1) "Excuse the juror," in which event the juror takes his or her seat back in the courtroom, or (2) "Present the juror," or "Swear the juror." The clerk will then ask, "what sayeth the defendant?" The defendant's attorney may say (1) "Excuse the juror," in which event the juror takes his or her seat back in the courtroom, or (2) "Swear the juror," in which event the juror takes a seat in the jury box as directed by the clerk.
After both sides have completed their challenges and the jury box has been filled with the required number of jurors, the process of selection is concluded and the jury is then administered the oath by the court.
The oath you will take as a juror is as follows:
In Criminal Cases (General Sessions)"Mr. Foreman or Madam Foreman, Ladies and Gentlemen of the Jury. Please stand and raise your right hand to be sworn: You shall and truly try, and true deliverance make, between the State of South Carolina, and the prisoner at bar, whom you shall have in charge, and a true verdict give, according to the evidence. SO HELP YOU GOD."
In Civil Cases (Common Pleas)"Mr. Foreman or Madam Foreman, Ladies and Gentlemen of the Jury. Please stand and raise your right hand to be sworn: You shall well and truly try the issues joined in this case and a true verdict give according to the evidence. SO HELP YOU GOD."
Two Kinds of Cases - Civil and Criminal
In general, juries are Called upon to decide two kinds of cases--civil and criminal.
A civil case usually involves a claim for money damages or some claim with respect to property. The party starting the case is called the plaintiff. The suit is begun by the filing with the Clerk of Court of the written claim of the plaintiff, called his complaint. The defendant, or party who is being sued, responds to the Complaint by filing his Answer, in which he admits or denies the claims made by the plaintiff. In some instances the defendant may make a claim of his own against the plaintiff, called a counterclaim, or against one of the other defendants, called a cross-claim. All of these papers make up what are called the pleadings. A juror should always remember that these pleadings are merely written claims of the parties and not evidence.
A criminal case is brought in the name of, and by, the State of South Carolina against a person, the defendant, charged with breaking the law. The attorney who represents the state is called the Solicitor or prosecutor. The case is ordinarily begun by the grand jury of a county, and the written charge or accusation that is brought against the defendant is called an indictment. The indictment merely describes the crimes which the defendant is accused of committing and is not evidence. Nor should the fact that the grand jury brought the indictment be considered as any evidence that the accused is guilty. The accused is not required to make a written answer to the indictment. He may plead guilty if he so chooses, or he may plead not guilty and go to trial.
The Stages of Trial
The trial of both civil and criminal cases are conducted under similar rules of procedures and in much the same manner The stages of trial usually include:
(1) Opening Statements
An opening statement is made, first by the attorney for the plaintiff, then by the attorney for the defendant. The purpose of this opening statement is to outline to the jury the facts of the case and what each side will attempt to establish through the presentation of evidence. This is only an explanation of what each side claims. Sometimes the judge will make a preliminary charge which substitutes for opening statements.
(2) Presentation of Evidence
After both sides have been given the opportunity to make opening statements or the judge has made a preliminary charge, the trial moves to the stage in which evidence is presented by each side. The plaintiff first presents all the evidence which supports his contentions, and is then followed by the defendant who presents his evidence. The plaintiff may then give evidence to disprove or explain some evidence presented by the defendant. Evidence may be in the form of a written document, an object, a photograph, or an x-ray. Such pieces of evidence are called exhibits. This physical evidence will be taken with you to the jury room, and may be considered in your deliberation.
Most evidence is presented in the form of spoken testimony of witnesses who have taken an oath to tell the truth. The attorney who has called the witness first asks questions of that witness, called direct examination. After direct examination is concluded, the lawyer for the other party may cross-examine, or ask further questions of that witness. After cross-examination, the lawyer who called the witness has a final opportunity to ask questions which is called redirect examination.
You should pay close attention to each witness as he testifies, not only to what he says but his manner and actions. If at any time you are unable to hear clearly, make the judge aware of the problem by raising a hand.
In some instances, the testimony of a witness who cannot be present at the trial may have been taken before the trial and written down. Such testimony, called a deposition, was given under oath, and if read into evidence, should be treated as though the witness was testifying in court. All testimony as well as remarks of the judge, attorneys, and other court officials are recorded by the court reporter. This constitutes the official record of the trial which may be of importance in later proceedings.
From time to time during the trial, you may hear the attorneys make what are known as "objections". Objections may be made for several reasons, including objections to the conduct of the parties or their attorneys, to the form of a question during the examination of a witness, or to the introduction of evidence. If the objection is deemed improper or not well-founded by the judge, he will "overrule" it, and allow the proceedings to continue or the evidence to be introduced. If on the other hand the judge finds the objection to be valid and proper he may "sustain" it, thereby discontinuing that conduct or question or may refuse to allow the introduction of evidence.
Under the rules of law governing the introduction and admission of evidence, a lawyer is within his rights to object to the introduction of any evidence which he believes is not proper. The judge is the sole authority on what evidence is proper. Since the evidence may be excluded, the jury is usually not allowed to hear arguments as to admissibility. Thus, the judge may send the jury out of the courtroom to allow the attorneys to argue to him whether the evidence should be admitted. Sometimes evidence gets before the jury before the attorney has a chance to object. The judge may order the jury to disregard such evidence completely and if so ordered, it should be disregarded and not considered as evidence.
(3) Final or Closing Arguments
After both sides have had an opportunity to present their evidence and have both "rested" their cases, they are given a chance to make final or closing arguments to the jury. First, the plaintiff's attorney, or the prosecutor in a criminal case followed by the defendant's attorney make closing arguments in which they sum up the evidence and testimony and try to persuade the jury to find in favor of their respective clients. These arguments, like the opening statements should be listened to attentively but should not be considered as evidence in themselves.
At the end of the final arguments by the lawyers, the judge will instruct you on the law that applies to the case, and you must apply that law to the facts as you find them in arriving at your verdict. You are bound under your oath to give full effect to the law as the judge states it to you. You must pay close attention to his instructions.
If the judge should give you any instruction that is different from any statement in this pamphlet, you should accept his instruction as correct and be guided by it.
(5) Jury Deliberation
Following the instructions, or charge by the judge, the bailiff will escort the jury to the jury room where you will conduct your deliberations. The foreman designated by the judge presides during the deliberations. The foreman acts as the chairman of the jury. It is his duty to see that discussion is carried on in a free and orderly manner, that the matters and issues submitted for your decision are fully and freely discussed, and that every juror is given an opportunity to express himself.
After you retire to the jury room, you are entitled to have all exhibits brought to you. Should you feel that it is necessary to be re-instructed, or receive additional instruction on the law or to have certain testimony read to you, you may so inform the judge through the bailiff. You should not, however, make such requests lightly, for they can be answered only by returning the jury to the courtroom where the Court will resume in full session. The procedure may require considerable time, but is justifiable if you seriously believe it to be necessary or helpful to you in discharging your duty.
In weighing evidence, an important distinction exists between civil and criminal cases in the degree of proof required to sustain an allegation. In a criminal case, the defendant, to be convicted, must be proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. In a civil case, the party who has made an affirmative allegation against another must prove that allegation by a preponderance of the evidence to support a finding in his favor on that allegation. In each case, the judge will carefully explain to you the degree of proof required to support particular findings, and you should pay the same careful attention to his instructions on this subject as you are required to pay to all other instructions.
Quite often in the jury room differences of opinion arise among the jurors. When this occurs, each juror should express his opinions and reasons therefor. By the process of careful and thorough reasoning, it is generally possible for jurors to reach a verdict. A juror should not hesitate to change his mind where there is good reason for doing so, but one who has a definite opinion on a question should not change that opinion unless he conscientiously is moved to do so as a result of the deliberations, his consideration of the views of his colleagues, and his own further thought on the matter.
It would be wrong for a juror to refuse to listen to the arguments and opinions of the others, or to deny the right of another juror to express his own opinions. All jurors should deliberate and vote on each issue to be decided. A juror should never vote against his conscience or his own judgment. He should vote only according to his own honest convictions, arrived at after a full and free discussion with his fellow jurors. After a verdict, or after a mistrial, or disagreement, jurors are under no duty or obligation to discuss what took place in the jury room with the lawyers in the case or anyone else.