Greetings To Our New Jurors
You have been summoned to serve as a trial juror in the Superior Court of
California, Los Angeles County. Since our court first opened its doors in 1879,
there has been a long tradition and belief in the importance of a strong
judicial system. As a juror, you are now part of this long tradition. Such
service is both a privilege and a duty and, when conscientiously performed, is
a mark of good citizenship. Although jury service may cause you personal
inconvenience or hardship, the opportunity to participate in our justice system
should be a rewarding experience.
Upon selection, a juror becomes an integral part of the judicial system and
has an important responsibility. The jury is assigned the duty of making
decisions concerning questions of fact in the pending case. The trial judge
rules upon questions of law. A fair and impartial trial and a just verdict
depend upon the combined efforts of the jurors as deciders of the facts, the
judge as presiding officer and final authority on the law, and the lawyers as
This Web page has been prepared to outline some of the procedures followed by
our courts and to acquaint you with your duties as a juror.
Selection Of A Jury
The trial court judge will request a panel of prospective jurors to begin the
jury selection process. The prospective jurors, upon reporting to a courtroom,
are first required to agree that they will answer truthfully all questions that
will be asked of them about their qualifications to serve as trial jurors in
the pending case.
The perjury admonishment will be given as follows:
"Do you, and each of you, understand and agree that you will accurately and
truthfully answer, under penalty of perjury, all questions propounded to you
concerning your qualifications and competency to serve as a trial juror in the
matter pending before this court; and that failure to do so may subject you to
The court clerk will then call twelve or more jurors to take seats in the jury
box. The judge will then speak to the jurors, informing them of the names of
all litigants and their counsel and stating the subject matter of the case. The
judge and the lawyers then question the jurors for the purpose of determining
whether the jurors are free of bias, prejudice, or whether there exists any
matter which might interfere with their ability to act as fair and impartial
The law authorizes the judge and the lawyers to excuse individual jurors from
service in a particular case for various reasons. If a lawyer wishes to have a
juror excused, he or she must exercise a "challenge" as to the juror.
Challenges are of two kinds:
The law sets forth a number of reasons for which a juror may be excused "for
cause." For example, a juror who is related to or employed by one of the
parties in the case may be excused for cause. There is no limit to the number
of such challenges which may be exercised.
Parties to each side of an action are allowed a certain number of challenges
for which no reason need be stated. These are called peremptory challenges.
They may be exercised by each side asking the judge to excuse a particular
juror. If a juror is excused, this fact does not imply a negative reflection
nor does it mean the juror is not competent in any way. It frequently happens
that a prospective juror will be excused in one case, or in a certain type of
case, and yet be accepted in others. The number of peremptory challenges has
been established by the Legislature.
The process of questioning and excusing jurors continues until twelve persons
are accepted as jurors. Alternate jurors may also be selected. In the jurors
rests the faith and confidence of the judge and the lawyers that they are
qualified to decide, impartially and intelligently, the issues of fact in the
case. When the selection of the jury is completed, the following agreement is
obtained from the jurors:
"Do you, and each of you, understand and agree that you will well and truly try
the case now pending before this court, and a true verdict rendered according
only to the evidence presented to you and to the instructions of the court?"
The agreement you make as a juror to try the case is not to be taken lightly
nor soon forgotten. You have given your word that you will reach your verdict
solely upon evidence received in trial and upon the Court's instructions as to
the law. You must not consider any other evidence. You must not consider any
instructions other than those given by the Court in the pending case. As a
juror, your role will be equally as important as that of the judge in ensuring
that justice is done.
Judge's Admonition To Jurors During Trial
After you have been selected as a prospective juror, the judge will admonish
you that it is your duty not to speak with any other juror or person or permit
any other juror or person to address you on any subject connected with the
trial, until the case is finally submitted to you for deliberation. It is also
your duty, until that state is reached, not to form or express an opinion on
the case. The law requires the judge to repeat or to remind you of that
instruction each time you leave the courtroom. Such repetition should serve to
increase your understanding of its importance.
The reasons for the admonition are basic. As previously emphasized, all cases
must be decided solely on the evidence received in the courtroom. If you were
to discuss the facts of the case or your impressions of it with a fellow juror,
your family, friends, or with any other person, you would hear their ideas and
thus expose your mind to influence from outside sources. Additionally, the
admonition that you should neither form nor express an opinion on the case
requires that you keep an open mind until you have heard the evidence from all
sides and the case is finally submitted to you. Only then may you discuss it
with your fellow jurors, and even then only when all jurors are present for the
purpose of deliberation. Even an inadvertent violation of the instruction would
be a violation of your oath as a juror. If you believe that someone purposely
has tried to speak to you concerning the case, it is your duty to report the
incident to the judge immediately. This responsibility prevents you from having
any conversation about the case with the lawyers, witnesses, or anyone else
connected with the case. The lawyers understand this rule, and you will find
that, even at the risk of seeming unfriendly, they will avoid even a casual
conversation with you. In order to prevent even the appearance of an improper
conversation, a wise policy for you to follow is to avoid any contact with
these persons. Please be sure to wear your badge so you will be recognized as a
By the same principle, it would be a violation of your duty as a juror to
conduct any investigation of the case. As a juror you must not become an
amateur detective. For instance, you must not visit the scene of an accident,
an alleged crime, or any event or transaction involved in the case. Neither
should you conduct experiments or consult any other person or reference works
for additional information. If the judge feels that an inspection of a place is
necessary or will be helpful, he or she will arrange and supervise an
inspection by the whole jury.
Do not do any research on your own or as a group. Do not use a
dictionary, the Internet, or other reference materials. Do not use any electronic
device or media, such as a cell phone, Smart Phone, PDA, computer, the
Internet, text or instant-messaging service, Internet chat room, blog or web
site, social network websites (“Facebook”, “MySpace”, etc.) or online diaries
(for example “Twittering”, etc.). Do not send or receive any information about
the case you are serving on, or your jury service experiences, until you are
discharged from service. Keep all electronic devices turned off while you are
in the courtroom and during jury deliberations. If someone needs to contact you
in an emergency, the court or assembly room staff can receive messages that
will be delivered to you without delay. Do not investigate the facts or law. Do
not conduct any tests or experiments, or visit the scene of any event involved
in a case you are assigned to. If you happen to pass by the scene, do not stop
As the trial begins, the lawyer for the plaintiff in a civil case, or the
prosecutor in a criminal case, may make an opening statement telling you what
they expect the evidence to show. The defendant's lawyer may choose to give an
opening statement after the plaintiff or prosecutor rests, telling you what the
defense expects the evidence to show. These statements of the lawyers are not
Their purpose is to give you the framework of the case, the points of conflict,
and the issues of the case to be decided by you. Be careful that you do not let
any facts presented in the opening statements become evidence in your mind, for
statements by the lawyers are not evidence.
You are not to consider as evidence any statement of counsel unless you are
otherwise instructed by the court.
Evidence may be presented in the form of a written document, an object, such as
a gun or an implement, a photograph or an x-ray or some other tangible thing.
They are called exhibits. Evidence may also consist of the testimony of
witnesses under oath in the courtroom.
After all the evidence has been introduced, lawyers for each side may present
their final summation, sometimes referred to as "argument."
The lawyers are entitled to present their views in summation with reasons and
conclusions, but you are not bound by them and they are not evidence. You
should listen to these summations carefully and consider them thoughtfully, but
you must form your own opinion.
A juror should make no decision on any issue until all sides have been heard,
the judge's instructions have been given, and the case discussed with all other
jurors after having retired to the jury room for that purpose.
Judge's Instructions On The Law
Either before or after the final summation by the lawyers, the judge will
instruct you on the law that applies to the case. You must apply that law to
the facts, as you find them, in arriving at your verdict. You must consider all
of the instructions and give them equal consideration regardless of the order
in which they are given. Whether some are applicable may depend upon the facts
which you find to be true. Keep in mind that you must follow the law as the
judge states it to you.
If the judge should give you any instruction that seems to conflict with or be
different from any statement in this Web site or instruction given at some
other trial, you must accept the instruction given by the judge as being
correct and be guided by the judge's statement only.
Deliberations By The Jury
After summations by counsel and the judge's instructions on the law, the clerk
of the court will administer an oath to the bailiff or court attendant, who
then will escort you to the jury room for your deliberation.
Your first duty upon retiring to the jury room is to select a foreperson. The
foreperson has the duty to see that discussion is carried on in a free and
orderly manner, that the matter and issues you must decide are fully and freely
discussed, and that every juror is given an opportunity to participate in the
discussion. Careful consideration should be exercised in selecting a well
When it is time for the taking of a ballot, the foreperson will see that it is
done properly. If the required number of jurors agree on each issue to be
decided, the foreperson will sign and date the verdict, so advise the bailiff
or court attendant, and return with the signed verdict and any unsigned verdict
forms to the courtroom. All jurors must vote on each issue to be determined.
After you retire to the jury room for deliberation, only the exhibits that you
are to consider will be supplied to you. If you are not provided with the
instructions in written form, you may request them.
If you feel you need further instructions or if you need to have certain
testimony read back to you, inform the judge through the bailiff or the court
attendant. You should not, however, take such requests lightly, for they
generally can be answered only by returning everyone to the courtroom where the
court will resume in full session. The procedure may require considerable time,
but it is justifiable if you seriously believe it to be necessary or helpful to
you in discharging your duty.
In weighing evidence, an important difference exists between civil and criminal
cases in the degree of proof required to sustain an allegation. In a criminal
case, the defendant, in order to be convicted, must be proven guilty beyond a
reasonable doubt. In a civil case, a party making an affirmative allegation
against another has the burden to prove that allegation by a preponderance of
the evidence. In each case, the judge will carefully explain to you the degree
of proof required to reach a decision. You should pay the same careful
attention to the instructions on this subject as you are required to pay to all
Quite often in the jury room differences of opinion arise among the jurors.
When this occurs, each juror should express his or her opinion and reasoning.
By the process of careful and thoughtful discussions, it is generally possible
for the jurors to reach a verdict. A juror should not hesitate to change his or
her mind where there is good reason for doing so, but one who has a definite
opinion, unless conscientiously persuaded to do so as a result of the
deliberations, consideration of the views of fellow jurors, and his or her own
further thoughts on the matter, should maintain his position, if warranted.
It would be wrong for a juror to refuse to listen to the arguments and opinions
of the others, or to deny another juror the right to express an opinion.
Remember that you are not advocates, but impartial judges of the facts. All
jurors should deliberate and vote on each issue to be decided. Each juror
should vote only according to his or her own honest convictions, following a
full and free discussion with fellow jurors.
In a civil case, the judge will instruct you as to the number of jurors who
must agree in order to reach a verdict. In a criminal case, you will be
instructed that the unanimous agreement of all twelve jurors is required. If a
jury cannot arrive at a verdict within a reasonable time and the jury indicates
to the judge that there is no possibility that they can reach a verdict, the
judge, in his or her discretion, may order the jury dismissed. This results in
a mistrial, sometimes referred to as a "hung jury," and may result in a
complete retrial of the case.
In your efforts to reach a verdict, keep in mind that you are to consider only
the evidence that was presented to you in the courtroom. You should not guess
or speculate, although you may draw reasonable inferences and deductions from
the evidence presented.
Do not assume that a case is unimportant. If it were your case, it would be
important to you, and you would want it to receive earnest and conscientious
consideration whether your case might appear great or small to others.
Juries in this court have been providing outstanding service and have set a
worthy standard. It is the responsibility of our judges, you, and of all future
jurors to insure the continuance of jury service at the highest level.
As a juror you truly exercise the function of a judge. Your attentive, serious
exercise of that power is greatly appreciated by the courts, our community, and
our entire democratic society. We simply could not function without you.