Jury Service – who has done it, and what were your thoughts – loved it, hated it, or just so, so?

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Overview –

Out of the 12 of us, only 2 of us, myself and another lady had done jury service before. Mine was in Bundy and I don’t even really recall it. We ranged from 18 year old Uni student, to our oldest late 60’s lady who had done it before. We ranged from finance, hospitality, customer service, architect, labourer, sales – so a wide range of ages and life experience. There were 5 females and 7 males, so fairly balanced – a great bunch of people.

Our WhatsApp group ‘Guilty Rogue’ members have since caught up early this year, and the friendship continues.

Our Jury – (well some of us)

Being part of Jury Service –

I personally think it’s a fabulous system; the juries are made up of ordinary citizens, randomly selected from the electoral roll, so you get a great cross section of ages, experience, and that is what the courts want – so everyone brings something different to the jury service.

I was very lucky I feel, as my jury service last year was with very respectful people, who brought different ideas and thought processes to the table, as well as some tasty treats, and we have developed friendships with people we would not normally meet in our usual lives – so in that respect I am grateful for being chosen randomly and then not ‘challenged’ by the barristers.

What’s Involved –

If never been called up, you may be interested in knowing what is involved. There are videos on the https://www.courts.qld.gov.au/jury-service website and loads of info, but thought I’d share my experience with you.

Pre-Jury Steps –

  • Letter arrived in the mail saying I had been chosen as a prospective juror. Told to show employer straight away and I could have had a letter written from my work for an excusal, however work saw no reason for that – even though think my boss may have regretted this later.
  • I then received a ‘Summons to a Juror’ for a three-week period a couple of weeks prior to the block, which I had to show work ASAP too. This letter showed my Juror Number and Panel and advised how to check if/when I needed to attend court.
  • I was also provided with a Travel Reimbursement Form, for costs each day travelling to the courthouse and home – handed in on my first day attending court.
  • I was Panel D and Juror Number 265, so I was not needed during week one of the three-week block. I provided my mobile number; a text arrived around 4.15pm each day advising which Juror Numbers were required to attend the following day and time to arrive etc.
  • My Juror Number came up as being needing to attend on the Monday of the second week, with arrival by 8.45am.
  • I had gone for a walk on the weekend prior to check the area out, and luckily I did as there are two buildings – older building is the magistrate’s court, but the new building is the District and Supreme Courts, where I had to go.

First day at Court –

  • Needed to allow plenty of time to get through security as Monday’s and Tuesday’s are the main days that trials start – there was a long line out the door of potential jurors arriving around a similar time. In the correspondence I received, there was a list what you could not bring, such as knitting needles, drugs, and of course knives and firearms – lol I thought – ‘what am I going to do without them?’
  • Handbags were screened, and then head up to level 2 into the jury waiting room. We had around 100 potential jurors on the day I attended. The letter received is scanned, so they know you are there, plus hand in your travel reimbursement form and then take a seat. There are two have huge screen TVs and a tea/coffee/water area, plus toilets in this one large area.
  • At 9am staff addressed us, double checked some juror numbers who may have been missing and went through housekeeping (fire etc). We were then shown a video setting out the whole process of – Jury process, Up to the court and jury selection, Trial process (if empanelled) – arraignment, where people sit, oath or affirmation, Deliberation, After verdict, can hear sentencing etc

This was a little tedious, but all quite useful information – some of which I have already watched, as I like to know what’s what.

Juror Number called –

Then the ‘fun’ began – different bailiffs then came into the jury waiting area with roughly 30 names and numbers on little cards – whoever was called out then followed that bailiff out and where then taken towards a courtroom. I was in roughly the third lot of numbers to be called out, and followed our Bailiff, Peter. We then waited outside the courtroom and Peter answered questions we had. Peter told us not to take being ‘challenged’ personally if that occurred. He told us that we would walk into the court, everyone would be in there including the judge – to sit on both sides at the back of the court. He advised if we were empanelled to mouth ‘affirmation’ when talking towards him if we wanted to say that, instead of an oath.

We then all filed into the courtroom – the defendant, the prosecutor and defence barristers were there, as was the judge, and any public, such as media etc. After filing in, the judges’ associate read out the charges and the accused stated ‘not guilty’. If the defendant had said ‘guilty’ then we would have all left, however as he said ‘not guilty’, they started the jury empanelling process.

The 30 odd name cards are given to the judges’ associate who placed them in a barrel (almost like bingo) and she called out names and numbers. When my name was called out, I took my handbag with me, walked past the defence and prosecution tables. I could have been ‘challenged ‘or told to ‘stand by’; if this had happened I would have returned to my seat with the rest of the proposed jurors. However, I wasn’t challenged and made it all the way to the bailiff – which meant I had been chosen for jury empanelling. I took the Oath by placing my hand on the bible, the Bailiff read out the Oath and I answered ‘so help me god’. I was then directed to sit in the jury box. If I had mouthed ‘affirmation’, the Bailiff would have read out the affirmation and I could have stated ‘I do’.

Empanelled as a Juror –

Once all 12 jurors were chosen, the prosecutor stated the witnesses who would be called and the judge asked if anyone on the jury has reason to be excused – we didn’t have anyone wanting to be excused, so we were then ‘empanelled’. But I assume that if there had been anyone wanting to be excused at that point, they would call extra jurors. Once the jury is empanelled, the non-jurors were led out of court and went back down to level 2 to the jury assembly area in case they were needed for another trial that day. Majority of court cases are empanelled on a Monday or Tuesday.

In the jury box, in front of you was a book, pen, water, glass, TV screen, tissues. The exercise book had our number on it, and you kept it only for the trial – it is destroyed at the end of the trial. Each night it is locked in a cupboard in the jury room. I started taking notes from the start – did glance around at my neighbouring jurors and they weren’t writing much – said later they saw me and thought Susan’s taking notes, al good.

There is a soundproof Jury Room, where you all file into as needed, there are toilets just for that jury room, and there is TV, biscuits, tea and coffee. The Court had a break at morning tea, afternoon tea and lunch around 1pm. If you aren’t in deliberations, you were allowed to leave the courthouse, but then return by a certain time and on a different level, for the Bailiff to collect you and then return you to the Jury Room prior to the start of the trail each time. If you were in deliberations, then lunch is brought in for you. You are told to only speak about the case in the jury room, not even while standing waiting for the toilet, as should a door be opened into the courtroom, people in the courtroom could hear you. There was a button near the door in the jury room that you could call the Bailiff if any issues, questions etc. The Bailiff knocked on the door before entering so we could stop discussing the trial. If a break was needed whilst sitting in the courtroom, the Bailiff advised us that we could make a breaking gesture as he is keeping an eye on us and sits close to the jury box, as is the judge. We only had one time that we really needed a break, and maybe the judge heard us groan when the evidence was going to continue, we can’t be sure, but we were so glad he realised that we needed a break.

Once empanelled on the jury, you leave mobile phones in jury room and Peter, our Bailiff was our ‘go to’ person for anything.

Trial –

Next the trial started – the prosecutor stepped though the case, then witnesses called – the complainant, and their witnesses. Our trial had a court order that the complainant was to be shielded from the defendant, so we had to go into the Jury Room while that was set up prior to that evidence being given. All people are sworn in via affirmation or oath and we had a translator, who was also sworn in. The Prosecution Barrister stepped through verbatim the evidence, confirming the evidence given as part of the complaint. There was an overhead projector type piece of equipment next to the prosecutor and any evidence, such as diagrams, records etc were placed on there so that we could see in the jury box. Of note is that these screens are not as clear as the TV in the jury room, so worth reviewing evidence again when deliberating.

For any arguments on points of law, the judge basically sent us out of the courtroom – we filed out to the jury room in the same order as we were sitting – we always took the opportunity to have a morning tea, snack and discussions. There was a lot of in and out of the courtroom, apart from morning teas and lunch, or starting late. You really must give up any control – you are at the control of the judge basically. The judge can get called away, he can be doing a sentencing or witnesses not available if timing changes.

When returning after lunch, Peter advised where and when to meet – for example our trial was on Level 7, however we always met on level 9; then Peter would lead us down a back way to the Jury Room – so we didn’t see anyone for that trial.

When called back into the courtroom, we always lined up in the order that we sat down in the jury box, so we filed in – 1-6 in back row, 7-12 in front row.

The defendant was in the courtroom the whole time, as was the general public unless there was a court order regarding a closed court; the judge tells people to leave.

Once prosecution was finished, then the defence stated who would be giving evidence, not sure what would have happened if we had known these new witnesses. Once all evidence was provided, then there were closing arguments – prosecution restated basically everything said before, and again the defence did the same. Then the judge basically stepped through everything, what to consider, instructing us, not to be emotional, not to wonder ‘what if’, not to worry about anything not given in evidence – basically ‘had the prosecution proven their case beyond reasonable doubt’.

Once the judge finished his summation, and instructions, we were sent into deliberations. At this point the Bailiff took our mobile phones and locked them away. If we had any questions, we needed to write them down and then press the Bailiff button – those responses could take time, as they aren’t all sitting in the courtroom waiting for us. Once we came to a unanimous decision, we pressed the button calling Peter, the Bailiff.

Deliberations –

Deliberations involved a lot of discussions. We were provided with any exhibits tabled, any video evidence to review. We were provided with lunch. At end of the day we told the Bailiff that we had had enough, needed a break, plus we had some questions.

The law still states that once in deliberations jurors are not meant to leave, but the judge can discharge us for the day. We still had to file in, he had to restate that we could not speak about the case. We returned the next day, filed in as usual and our questions were answered; we then returned to the Jury Room for deliberations.  

Once our decision was made, the Bailiff was advised. Our jury spokesperson filed in first; the rest of us were in any order; we stood standing in front of jury box. The judges associate then asked ‘jury spokesperson, has the jury reached a verdict?’ and they said ‘yes’. The associate then said ‘how say the jury, is the defendant guilty or not guilty?’ Our spokesperson said ‘the jury finds the defendant ‘guilty’ (in our case). The associate then asked ‘and so says all of you’ and we all answered ‘yes’. Judge thanked us and excused us. We then all collected our mobile phones, our exercise books were left in the Jury Room for destroying, and some of our Jurors went back into the Court, as a member of the public, as sentencing was expected.

Verdict given – what now –

Bailiff advised that we could speak about the trail, but not meant to discuss what was actually spoken about in the jury room, our deliberations etc.

Excusals –

Remember that the jury period is for three weeks. So, you continue to be texted if your Juror Number is needed to attend court each day. However, should you need a part excusal you are provided with an email address to contact and request. I requested an excusal for the last day of the 3-week period early on as was going away. I then requested another excusal post the trail as I was behind in work and it had taken an emotional toll on me, and I was granted both.

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1 Comments

  1. Judith Himstedt says:

    Hi Susan

    i loved reading this!!! I have never been called for jury service and i am disappointed as i know i would love it. Good on you for being a great citizen xxx

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