It happens sooner or later to everyone: you open the mail and receive your first Jury Summons. It has even happened to me in the last three years though, unfortunately, I did not get the opportunity to serve on the jury that day.
For most folks, jury duty is an important civic duty, but not something most people look forward to doing. Why do we call members of the community to serve as the finders of fact at trials? What role do members of the jury play? What are members of the jury allowed to do and consider in the course of the trial? These are important questions about our system of justice that many people do not fully understand.
The Illinois Jury Duty Selection Process
The system of justice established in this country requires all members of the community to serve as a jury of peers to decide both civil and criminal disputes raised by both individuals and the state. In the State of Illinois, jurors are selected at random from a list obtained from voting registries, driver’s licenses, and other forms of identifying the members of each county in Illinois.
If called to serve, a juror must follow the instructions on the jury duty notice to determine if and when their service will be required. Those failing to appear for jury duty, or receiving confirmation of an excuse from jury duty, may face civil or criminal fines for contempt of court. It is important that you take your duty to serve on a jury seriously from both a personal and a legal perspective.
What Is Your Role as a Juror?
If you have appeared for jury duty, you will likely be instructed at length regarding your role and your duty. It can be summarized as requiring you to consider the valid evidence in court, determine the facts of the case, and apply the law to determine whether a party is guilty or not. This process often seems daunting for those not well versed in the law, but it is important to understand the basic functions of your task. During the course of the trial, the parties to the case, by their attorneys, will put on the important evidence for the jury to consider in proving the allegations of the Complaint.
The jury’s job is to observe and weigh that evidence to determine if the Plaintiff has met his or her burden at trial to prove their case. To assist them in that role, members of the jury are provided a notepad to take their own personal notes on regarding the evidence before them. The jury should not engage in any independent investigation or discuss this matter with others outside the scope of the trial. Once you have heard all of the evidence, the Judge will instruct you as to the law, and give you instructions on how to consider the evidence. Following those instructions, the jury is required to deliberate the evidence before it and come to a jointly made decision about the outcome of the case.
The jury system is a fundamental process to our job as attorneys. One of our most important goals at trial is being able to convey clearly and precisely the evidence on behalf of our clients and convince you of the merits of our case. The attorneys at Tapella and Eberspacher have both the experience and the conviction to bring that information to the juries of Illinois for our clients. If you need our legal representation, please call our office at 217-639-7800.