Deciding a Verdict

What happens after the closing arguments?

After the judge gives you your instructions and you hear the attorneys' closing arguments, you leave the courtroom and go to the jury room to begin your deliberations. "Deliberation" is the process the jury uses to reach its verdict. During deliberations, the jury will discuss evidence and review law and facts.

Will anyone be in the jury room besides the jury?

No. But if you have any questions or need any help, the bailiff will be nearby.

What is the first thing we do?

The first thing you should do is elect one member of the jury to preside over the deliberations, seeing that everyone has an opportunity to participate and that the discussions remain orderly. The person chosen to preside takes part in the deliberations and votes on the verdict along with everyone else.

What if we do not understand the jury instructions?

You may take written copies of the jury instructions to the jury room with you. If you do not understand the instructions, you may ask the judge to explain them to you. It is usually best to put your questions in writing and ask the bailiff to give them to the judge, since the judge will discuss the questions with the attorneys before answering them.

How should we conduct our deliberations?

Each juror may have a different opinion at the start of deliberations. To reach a decision, some jurors may have to change their opinion. You should keep an open mind; listen carefully to other people's opinions, and the reasons for their opinions. You should be prepared to tell the other jurors what you think and why you think it. Be fair and carefully consider what your fellow jurors are saying. Do not let yourself be intimidated into changing your opinion, and do not intimidate anyone else. Change your opinion only if you genuinely agree with what another juror is saying. After a full discussion of the issues, the jury should be able to reach a decision that each juror can agree to with a clear conscience.

Do we all have to agree?

Yes. Every juror must agree on the verdict. This is known as a unanimous verdict.

What should we do after we have reached our verdict?

The person chosen to preside will write down the jury's verdict on a form prepared by the judge, sign it, and notify the bailiff that a verdict has been reached. The bailiff will notify the judge, who will call everyone, including the jury, back to the courtroom. The clerk or judge will ask for the jury's verdict and read it out loud. The judge will then ask the attorneys if they wish to have the jury polled. "Polling a jury", means that the clerk will ask each juror individually if this is their verdict, and each juror must answer out loud. After the verdict and decision on award or punishment is announced, the judge will dismiss the jury.

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