How are jurors selected for service?
The Kentucky Court of Justice strives to ensure that as many Kentuckians as possible are available for jury service so that jury pools are truly representative of the population. The Administrative Office of the Courts compiles a county-by-county master list of prospective jurors for the entire state. The master list includes all people filing a Kentucky resident individual tax return, in addition to registered voters and licensed drivers over the age of 18.
How does the jury summons process work?
Circuit and district judges in need of jurors notify the chief circuit judge (or his or her designee). This jury administrator then requests a list of prospective jurors from the master list maintained by the AOC. The prospective jurors on the list are mailed a summons requiring them to report for jury service at a specified time and place. State law requires the summons to be issued at least 30 days before jurors are to report for service.
How long will I serve?
By law, a person summonsed to jury duty is required to be available for 30 court days. However, once a jury begins hearing a case, the jury will remain seated for the duration of that case. In some urban areas a person may be required to serve as few as 14 days, while in some rural areas a person may be asked to serve as many as 150 days. The judge will determine the exact length of jury service.
Who is qualified to be a juror?
A juror qualification form is enclosed with the jury summons. Prospective jurors are required to fill out the form and return it to the circuit court clerk’s office within five days of receipt. Juror qualification forms ensure that a prospective juror meets the mandatory qualifications for serving on a jury. The personal information on the form is used to determine whether or not a person is qualified to be a juror. The qualification form information is for official court use only and is kept confidential. The chief circuit judge (or his or her designee) will use the information to determine whether a prospective juror is qualified for jury duty.
To qualify for jury service, a person must:
- Be 18 years of age or older.
- Be a United States citizen.
- Be a resident of the county in which the case is to be tried.
- Be able to speak and understand English.
- Not have been convicted of a felony, unless pardoned or had his or her civil rights restored by the governor or other authorized person of the jurisdiction in which he or she was convicted.
- Not be currently under indictment.
- Not have served on a jury within the past 24 months.
Should a juor be disqualified for one or more of these reasons, the judge or the designee will enter the disqualification on the space provided on the juror qualification form. Each disqualified juror will be immediately notified of the disqualification.
What does a grand jury do?
A grand jury determines whether or not to indict, which means to bring a formal, criminal charge against an individual for a felony. Grand jurors do not decide guilt or innocence. The grand jury hears evidence and determines if there is sufficient proof to support an indictment and require the accused to stand trial. One member of the grand jury is elected foreperson of the other jurors. The foreperson is responsible for swearing in all witnesses who come before the grand jury. The commonwealth’s attorney examines each witness and advises the jury. No one is to be present in the grand jury room during the examination except the commonwealth’s attorney, a stenographer, the witness and anyone else required, such as a guardian for a child or disabled witness.
After all evidence has been presented, the grand jurors will deliberate and decide whether to return an indictment. Nine of the 12 grand jurors must be in agreement to return an indictment. All indictments must be signed by the jury foreperson, even if he or she personally voted not to return an indictment. If the grand jury votes not to return an indictment, the jury foreperson must report that fact in writing. It is the responsibility of the foreperson to report the vote results of the grand jury for or against indictment to the judge in open court.
What does a petit or trial jury do?
Petit or trial juries hear and decide two kinds of cases -- civil and criminal -- in District Court or Circuit Court. Juries consist of six jurors in District Court and 12 jurors in Circuit Court.
What is the difference between civil and criminal cases?
Civil cases involve disputes between two or more individuals or corporations and usually involve a judgment awarding monetary damages. The party filing suit is the plaintiff and the party being sued is the defendant. In a civil case, five of six jurors must agree on a verdict at the District Court level and nine of the 12 jurors must agree at the Circuit Court level.
Criminal cases involve charges brought by the Commonwealth of Kentucky, represented by the commonwealth’s attorney in Circuit Court or the county attorney in District Court, against a person accused of committing a crime.
The petit jury must decide the defendant’s guilt or innocence and recommend a suitable sentence should the defendant be found guilty. In a criminal case, all of the jurors must agree upon a verdict of guilty or not guilty and all must agree on the penalty if the defendant is found guilty.
How is a jury panel selected?
To select a petit jury panel, the circuit court clerk draws at least 16 names from the jury list for District Court cases and 32 names for Circuit Court cases. The names are numbered and matching number cards are then placed into a box and drawn. From the drawn names, the final number of jurors needed will be selected by process of elimination.
Can I be removed from the jury?
If it is determined that a juror is related to either party or a witness involved in the case, he or she may be challenged and “removed for cause” from the jury during the course of the voir dire examination. In criminal cases, jurors may also be excused for forming an opinion concerning the defendant’s guilt or innocence before the trial begins.
In addition to those “removed for cause” from consideration as jurors, the plaintiff and the defendant are each allowed a certain number of peremptory challenges -- or “strikes” -- by which they can remove potential jurors for no stated reason. The number of peremptory challenges allowed each side varies and is dependent upon whether the case is civil or criminal and whether alternate jurors are requested.
The voir dire procedure should reduce the number of potential jurors to the size required to be seated, which is 12 jurors in Circuit Court and six in District Court, plus alternates if requested. After all removals for cause and peremptory challenges have been exercised, if there are still more than 12 or six acceptable people needed for a jury, the numbers assigned to the remaining jurors are placed back into a box by the clerk, who then pulls the proper number of jurors at random from the box. The individuals whose numbers are called are then seated as a jury. The remaining people are excused.
When the jury is accepted by both sides, the members are sworn. Each member must set aside personal convictions and emotions and decide the case strictly from the evidence presented and from the instructions of the court.
Can I be excused from jury service?
With the exception of an emergency, individuals called to serve on a jury should not ask to be excused. Those suffering from an ailment should present a doctor’s note or personal letter to the judge explaining his or her situation. Do not have an attorney, employer or third party, other than a physician, act on your behalf. If you have a permanent medical condition that would prevent you from serving as a juror, you may request exemption from jury duty. To be granted an exemption, you must present sufficient proof that would allow the chief circuit judge to determine you have a permanent medical condition rendering you incapable of serving.
Will my employer excuse me from work?
Employers, by law, must release someone who has been summonsed to jury service from his or her regular work schedule. Employers are not required, however, to compensate individuals for time spent away from regular employment during jury duty. Jurors are compensated $12.50 per day by the state during jury service.
Will there be long periods of waiting?
Occasionally jurors are required to sit through long recesses or waiting periods while the judge and parties related to a case are negotiating. Your time is not being wasted, however, as there are many reasons for such delays. Frequently, plea bargaining agreements are being negotiated. Often a party in a case cannot decide whether to settle his or her case outside of court or take his or her chances with a jury. Many litigants will not settle out of court until jurors are ready to hear a case.
What is the dress code for jurors?
Jurors should wear comfortable clothing that is appropriate to the seriousness and dignity of the courtroom.