Functions and duties of a juror
Jurors fulfil a very important function in the legal system. In a criminal trial, they are charged with the responsibility of deciding whether, on the facts of the case, a person is guilty or not guilty of the offence for which he/she has been charged.
The jury must reach its verdict by considering only the evidence introduced in court and the directions of the judge. The jury does not interpret the law. It follows the directions of the judge as regards legal matters.
During all stages of the trial, jurors may take notes of proceedings. Jurors may also pass notes to the foreman or forewoman of the jury to ask the judge to explain certain aspects of the case.
At the conclusion of the trial, jurors are given an issue paper, which states the issues that the jury must consider in reaching its verdict.
When the jury has reached its decision, it will return to the court and the verdict will be read out.
At the end of the case, a court Garda or other official is required to keep the jury together until the verdict is reached.
Jurors are taken into the jury room and allowed no outside communication at all, with the exception of notes to the court registrar. They may keep a copy of the indictment, the exhibits and their notes.
Jurors may send out notes asking for the law to be further explained or for the judge to remind them of the details of the evidence. They will then be brought back into the court for the judge to give them such assistance as he/she can but there can be no new evidence at this stage.
The jury has no role in sentencing. This decision is left up to the judge following submissions made by both sides.
» decide the facts of the case only
» take directions relating to law from the trial judge, whether or not they agree with him/her
» remain impartial and independent
» remain uninfluenced by any person. It is an offence for any person who is not a member of the jury to attempt to influence a juror in any way. If any person speaks to a juror about the case, the juror should inform the court or a member of the Gardai.
» keep statements made in the jury room confidential. Jurors should not discuss the case with any person other than members of the jury. It is contempt of court punishable by fine and or imprisonment to repeat any statements made in the jury room.
The Juries Act, 1976, created the following offences punishable by fines;
» Failing to attend for jury service without reasonable excuse, or not being available when called upon to serve as a juror or being unfit for service by reason of drink or drugs.
» Making or causing to be made on your behalf false representations.
» Serving on a jury knowing you are ineligible or disqualified.
» Giving false or misleading answers to the presiding judge regarding your qualification for jury service.
» Making or causing to be made on behalf of a person summoned as a juror any false representations to enable him or her to evade jury service.