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What is a Jury Trial?
During a trial, the judicial officer serves as the Court's presiding officer and is the final authority on questions
of law. The lawyers act as advocates for their clients. Jurors listen to opening statements and closing arguments
presented by the lawyers and also learn about and weigh the evidence that is introduced during the trial. After
hearing all of the evidence and arguments, jurors retire to a private room to begin their deliberations. The purpose
of juror deliberations is to allow the jurors to make a decision about the questions presented in the case and then
render a verdict.
Juries are called to hear two types of cases: civil and criminal.
- Civil cases involve disputes between people or organizations. They may involve property or personal
rights, such as landlord/tenant issues, personal injury, contract disputes, and employment rights.
- Criminal cases are tried on behalf of the People of the State of California and are usually prosecuted
by the District Attorney's Office. Prosecutors file criminal cases against individuals accused of
"Overall, I enjoyed the experience and appreciated the first-hand, close-up look at how the justice system works."
Former Juror Howard H.
Selection of a Jury
When a jury trial is about to begin, the judicial officer requests a panel of prospective jurors to be sent to the
courtroom from Jury Services so that the jury selection process can begin. After reporting to a courtroom, the
prospective jurors are first asked to swear that they will truthfully answer all questions asked regarding their
qualifications to serve as jurors in the case.
The law permits the judicial officer and attorneys to excuse individual jurors from service for various reasons. If
a lawyer wants to have a juror excused, he or she must use a "challenge" to excuse the juror. Challenges can be "for
cause" - meaning that a reason is stated - or "peremptory" - meaning that no reason is required by the Court. The
process of questioning and excusing jurors continues until 12 persons are chosen as jurors for the trial. Alternate
jurors may also be selected. The judicial officer and attorneys agree that these jurors are qualified to decide
impartially and intelligently the factual issues in the case. When the selection of the jury is complete, the jurors
take an oath, promising to reach a verdict based only upon the evidence presented in the trial and the Court's
instructions about the law.
The duty and responsibility of every juror is as important as the judicial officer's in making sure that justice is
done. For more information regarding jury service in California,
click here or
watch the juror orientation video,
Ideals Made Real.
"An amazing experience and I felt the case was interesting and timely."
Former Juror Suzanne S.
Below are links to important information jurors and prospective jurors need to know.
A trial by a jury of one's peers is among the fundamental democratic ideals of our nation. It is the duty and
responsibility of all qualified citizens to participate as jurors.
In order for the justice process to be fair, equal and accessible to all, judicial officers and jurors must
consider the cases before them in a way that is thoughtful, involves sound judgment, is impartial and fair, and
In each trial, the judicial officer determines the rules of law that govern the case. For example, the judicial
officer decides what evidence may be presented and admitted during the trial. After listening carefully and
considering all of the testimony and evidence presented, jurors receive instructions from the judicial officer
as to the laws that apply to the case. At this time, the responsibility switches to the jurors and they decide
which facts in the case are most credible and then apply the law as instructed by the judicial officer in order
to reach a verdict.
"Serving on a jury is a memorable experience and truly an honor."
Former Juror Adam C.