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Jury Duty

Jury Information

On behalf of the Colbert County Circuit Court, I would like to thank you for your willingness to serve as a juror. You are making it possible for our courts to provide each citizen with a trial by jury, a constitutional right that we would be unable to provide without your service.

We hope this website will help you understand the things that happen and the terms that are used during a trial and to let you know what is expected of you. It is hoped that this information will make you better able to do your part in administering justice.

In each case on which you act as a juror, the judge will give you instructions applicable to that case. The information on this website is not intended to take the place of and must not encroach on those instructions.

I want to assure you that my staff and I and everyone associated with the courts will do everything within our power to make your service as pleasant as possible. We hope your service is both rewarding and educational.

Mark R. Eady, Circuit Clerk
31st Judicial Circuit

I’ve Been Summoned For Jury Service

If I am unable to serve on jury duty, whom do I call?
Jury service may be inconvenient, but no one is excused unless jury service would present an undue hardship, extreme inconvenience, or be required by public necessity. You may call the Clerk’s Office at (256) 386-8511 between the hours of 8:00a.m. and 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday, at least one week prior to the date you are to report.

Where do I report?
You will need to arrive at the time indicated on your juror summons. The courthouse doors do not open until 8:00 a.m. You will be able to enter the building on Water Street. You will be required to go through a metal detector. Once inside the building, go to the second floor to the Jury room.

Concessions - There is a snack machine and drink machine located on the first and second floors of the courthouse.

Restrooms - There is a women’s and men’s bathroom on the first and second floor of the courthouse.

Emergency Telephone Numbers - The telephone number where family members may reach you is 256-386-8511.

Smoking - Smoking is permitted outside the courthouse. Smoking is not permitted in any room of the courthouse.

Electronic Devices - Cell phones are permitted in the courthouse. You are required to turn them off when you go into a courtroom.

Jury Announcements

 

 

Juror's Responsibilities

As a juror, there are certain responsibilities you will be asked to fulfill.

A juror must be prompt. A trial cannot continue unless all jurors are present.

A juror must give his/her undivided attention to the trial. A juror should listen carefully to all questions by both parties on direct or cross examination of the witness, the testimony given in response to the questions, and the judge's instructions to the jury. A juror's verdict can only be based upon the evidence presented.

A juror must not research the case through broadcast and newspaper accounts. A juror may not listen to radio or television accounts concerning the trial, or read articles about the trial. During a trial, if a juror has personal knowledge about any facts in the case, the juror has a duty to disclose his/her knowledge to the judge. A person who knows a fact which could materially affect the case should not serve as a juror.

A juror must not discuss the case with anyone, including relatives, friends, or trial participants. Once selection of a jury begins, a potential juror should not discuss the case with anyone. After deliberations begin, a juror can discuss the case only with the other jurors. If someone attempts to talk to a juror, (s)he should report it to the judge. However, after the trial has concluded, a juror may discuss the case with anyone, but the juror is not obligated to do so.

A juror may not conduct independent investigations or experiments to verify testimony given in the case. The jury's verdict can only be based upon evidence presented in court. If the court finds it necessary for the jury to inspect the scene of an accident or alleged crime, the judge will arrange for the entire jury to do so together. Thus, a juror must not conduct investigations or experiments by himself/herself.

A juror must be impartial until (s)he hears all the evidence and law applicable to the case. A juror should listen to the evidence presented by both sides carefully and avoid "taking sides" until (s)he has an opportunity to hear all the evidence and the judge's instructions as to the law applicable to that particular case.

Trial Participants

A jury trial involves many people, directly or indirectly. The judge, attorneys, parties, witnesses, and jurors are all direct participants in the courtroom proceedings. The following is a description of their roles:

The judge is an elected official who administers proceedings between the parties. The judge conducts the trial, rules on questions of law raised by the attorneys, and, at the close of the trial, instructs the jury on the law that applies to the case.

Attorneys represent and advise the parties on the law and all aspects of the trial. They are employed by the parties or, if a defendant is indigent and unable to pay for an attorney in his/her criminal case, an attorney will be appointed by the court at state expense. The court, however, can require the defendant to reimburse the state for these costs, if s(he) is able.

The district attorney is an elected official who is the prosecutor for the state in criminal cases and represents a victim of crime.

The parties in a civil trial are the plaintiff and the defendant; in a criminal trial, they are the state, represented by the district attorney or prosecutor, and the defendant.

Witnesses present testimony under oath regarding what they have seen or know about the facts in the case. A witness may testify as an expert based on professional experience.

Usually, others indirectly involved provide essential services but are not active trial participants.

The circuit clerk is the court's business manager. This elected official is responsible for court records, issuing summonses and subpoenas, collecting court-ordered monies, and conducting other business activities.

The sheriff, as an elected official, is the county's chief law enforcement officer. The sheriff serves summonses on witnesses, jurors, and defendants and provides court security.

The court administrator assists the judge(s) in performing court administrative activities.

The court reporter records a word-for-word account of all court testimony and proceedings and, in the event of an appeal and upon request of one or both parties, will transcribe the record into a written transcript.

Sequence of Trial Events

  1. Opening Statements
  2. Plaintiff's or State's Case
  3. Defendant's Case
  4. Rebuttal
  5. Closing Arguments
  6. Judge's Charge to the Jury
  7. Jury Deliberations
  8. Verdict

The opening statements are made at the beginning of the trial and outline the facts expected to be presented to the jury. Opening statements are not evidence but are only explanations of what each
side expects the evidence to prove.

After the opening statements from both sides, the plaintiff's or state's case is presented in the form of evidence. This presentation is intended to prove the claims made. Evidence can be testimony given by a witness at trial or a physical exhibit such as a gun or photograph. The presentation of the case begins with the plaintiff's or the district attorney's direct examination of a witness. Direct examination discloses points important to the case. Next, the defendant's attorney may cross-examine the witness to disclose facts favoring the defendant; the defendant's attorney may demonstrate there is a reason to doubt the testimony given by the witness on direct examination. Upon completion of cross-examination, the plaintiff's attorney or district attorney may, on redirect examination, clarify statements previously made by the witness.

The defendant's case is presented after the plaintiff's or state's case. The defendant's case presentation follows the same format as the plaintiff's or state's case.

After the defendant's case, the plaintiff or state may present rebuttal witnesses or evidence designed to disprove the testimony and evidence presented by the defendant.

Closing arguments follow evidence presentation, at which time both sides summarize the case from their viewpoint. Closing arguments are not evidence but are the attorney's summaries of the evidence presented during the trial.

The judge's charge to the jury follows closing arguments. The charge instructs the jury on the issues to be decided and the rules of law that apply to the case.

After listening to the judge's oral charge, the jury retires to begin jury deliberations. Selection of a foreman is the jury's first duty.
This person presides over the discussion of the case, acting as chairman and spokesman for the jury.

Jury deliberations generally conclude when a unanimous verdict has been reached. If the jury is unable to agree upon a verdict after lengthy deliberations, the foreman must notify the judge. If the jury cannot reach a verdict, referred to as "deadlock," a mistrial must be declared and a new jury impaneled to try the
case over.

After reaching a verdict, the foreman records the verdict and calls for the court attendant (or bailiff) to escort the jury to the courtroom. The verdict is read by the judge, circuit clerk, or foreman.

A

answer - the defendant's response to allegations in the civil complaint or pleading.

C

civil case - a case that is not criminal in nature but one that pertains to the settlement of disputes between individuals, i.e., a suit seeking the recovery of damages incurred from an automobile accident, breach of contract action, divorce case.

circuit court - a trial court of general jurisdiction hearing all civil matters where the amount in controversy exceeds $10,000 and all criminal prosecutions involving felony offenses, as well as misdemeanors and municipal ordinance violations arising out of felonies. The district court also has original jurisdiction concurrent with the circuit court in matters where the amount in controversy exceeds $1500 but does not exceed $10,000, and in taking non-capital felony guilty pleas before and indictment is returned.

closing argument - a summary of the evidence presented to the jury by the attorneys on both sides of a case.

complaint (civil) - statements by the plaintiff stating the claims (s)he has against the defendant.

complaint (criminal) - a formal statement charging an individual with a criminal offense.

cross-examination - questioning of a witness by the opposing side.

D

deadlock - a term used to refer to when a jury cannot reach a verdict, resulting in a mistrial.

deposition - testimony taken under oath and outside the courtroom.

direct examination - the first questioning of a witness by the party on whose behalf (s)he is called.

district court - a trial court of limited jurisdiction hearing all civil matters where the amount in controversy does not exceed $1,500 and all criminal prosecutions of misdemeanors, unless the misdemeanors arise out of felony charges or have had an indictment returned. District courts also have concurrent jurisdiction with the circuit court in matters where the amount in controversy exceeds $1,500 but does not exceed $10,000, and in taking non-capital felony guilty pleas before an indictment is returned. District courts also have original jurisdiction to hold preliminary hearings in felony prosecutions.

E

evidence - any legally presented proof which may be established by witnesses, testimony, documents, etc.

exhibit - a paper, document, or other object used as evidence during a trial or hearing.

F

felony - a serious criminal offense punishable by at least one year and one day in the penitentiary and may also include a fine of $5,000 or more.

I

indictment - a grand jury's written accusation charging a person or business with committing a crime.

information - a written statement charging a defendant with the commission of an indictable offense, made under oath, signed and presented to the court by the district attorney without action by the grand jury.

M

misdemeanor - a less serious criminal offense punishable by up to one year in the county jail or a fine of $2,000 or both.

mistrial - an erroneous or invalid trial declared defective and void because of prejudicial error in the proceedings or inability of the jury to reach a verdict.

moral turpitude crime - an offense consisting of a base or vile act or the depravation in private and social duties which man owes to his fellow man or to society in general. It is essentially an act or behavior which violates the accepted moral standards of the community.

 

O

oath - a written or oral pledge to speak the truth.

objection - a statement by an attorney opposing specific testimony or admission of evidence.

opening statement - outline of anticipated proof presented to the jury by the attorneys at the trial's beginning.

overrule - court's denial of a motion or objection raised to the court; when a court overrules an objection to evidence (for example, testimony), the jury may properly consider it.

P

probable cause - a reasonable belief that a crime has or is being committed; the basis for all lawful searches and arrests.

prosecution - act of pursuing a lawsuit or criminal trial; the prosecution in a criminal case is brought by the state through the district attorney.

R

rebuttal - the introduction of rebutting evidence to discredit statements of opposing witnesses.

redirect examination - follows cross-examination and is exercised by the party who first examined the witness.

restitution - a full or partial payment of money damages to a victim or its equivalent in services performed or work or labor done for the victim's benefit as determined by a judge.

"the rule" - (also known as "invoking the rule") - a request made by a party to a case asking the judge to rule that material witnesses who are to give testimony must stay out of the courtroom during the proceedings until they are brought into the courtroom to testify. This rule is invoked so that the witnesses will not be able to hear what has been said in the trial to ensure that they will give unbiased testimony.

S

striking a jury - a process of selecting a trial jury where attorneys "strike" or excuse jurors until the number required remains.

sustain - court's acceptance of any motion or objection; when a court sustains an objection to evidence (for example, testimony), the jury may not consider it.

V

venire - the group of sworn jurors.

verdict - the final formal trial decision made by a jury, read before the court, and accepted by the judge.

voir dire examination - the preliminary questioning of jurors to establish their qualifications.

 

If there are other terms or phrases which you hear while serving as a juror that you do not understand, ask the judge to explain the term or phrase to you.