Why is jury service important?
The United States Constitution and the Georgia Constitution guarantee all people, regardless of race, religion, sex, national origin, or economic status, the right to a trial by an impartial jury. Justice ultimately depends upon the quality of the jurors who serve in our courts.
What is my duty as a juror?
As a juror, you must be fair and impartial. Your actions and decisions must be free of any bias or prejudice. Your actions and decisions are the foundation of our judicial system.
How does someone get summoned for jury duty service?
The pool from which our potential jurors are chosen is now a master list provided to us from the State of Georgia’s Council of Superior Court Clerks. This master list is a combination of all of Chatham County’s Voter Registered citizens and all of Chatham County citizens who are registered with the Department of Drivers’ Services possessing a driver’s license or identification card. The only limitations concerning a citizen’s frequency and length of service is as stated in OCGA § 15-12-3: “No person shall be compellable to serve on the grand or trial jury of the superior court or on any jury in other courts for more than four weeks in any year.”
and in OCGA § 15-12-4 (a): “Any person who has served as a juror at any session of the superior or state courts shall be ineligible for duty as a juror at the next succeeding term of the court in which such person has previously served but shall be eligible to serve at the next succeeding term of court for a different level of court.”
Can you volunteer to be a juror?
Jurors must be randomly selected from the master jury list of all Chatham County citizens who are registered to vote or who are registered with the Department of Drivers Services that is provided to us yearly by the Council of Superior Court Clerks. You cannot volunteer to serve for someone else; you must wait until your name is randomly selected. If you are voter registered in Chatham County, have a drivers license or ID card, you may be summoned at any time; we do summon between 400 and 800 people every week of the year.
Am I eligible?
- Be a citizen of the United States and of this State.
- Be at least l8 years of age.
- Reside in Chatham County, GA
You cannot serve on a jury if:
- You have been convicted of a felony and have not been pardoned or had your rights restored or been convicted under the First Offender Act.
- You do not reside in Chatham County.
If you are in doubt, or think you may not be qualified to serve on a jury for one of the above or any other reasons, please call the Jury Services Division of the Superior Court Administrators office at 652-7170.
Who can be excused from jury service?
You are entitled to be exempted from jury duty service if you:
• Are 70 years of age or older and you have submitted a signed request asking to be exempt because of your age. (see form 2 of your summons)
• Have a permanent medical disability and you have submitted a signed medical excuse from your doctor to the Jury Services Division. (see form 2 of your summons)
Of course, if there is a problem with the week you have been summoned, contact the Jury Services Division before the deadline that is specified on your summons and it may be possible for your service to be be rescheduled to another week during the term of court for which you were summoned.
What if I am an active duty member of the regular or reserve component of the U.S. armed forces, the U.S. Coast Guard, the Georgia National Guard, or the Georgia Air National Guard who was ordered federal duty for a period of 90 days or longer or the spouse of any such service member and unable to serve as a juror as summoned, how may I be excused or deferred from jury service?
As a service member as explained above or the wife of a service member, you may have your service deferred or excused by submitting a copy of your valid military ID with the signed Juror Exemption/Deferral Form of your summons or with the signed military affidavit . You can mail or fax (912/652-7130) the copy of your ID and the completed request form to us. Call after giving us enough time to receive it, to verify that it has been received and you have been excused or deferred. Download the Military Affidavit Requesting Excusal or Deferral from Jury Service.
How can I request an excusal or deferral because of special circumstances such as being a primary unpaid caregiver for a person over the age of six, the caregiver having active care and custody of a child six years of age or younger, primary teacher in a home study program as defined in O.C.G.A. 20-2-690 (c),or a full-time student?
You may complete the Affidavit Requesting Excusal or Deferral from Jury Service and have it notarized. Return the notarized Affidavit to us by mailing or bringing it to us to preserve the seal from the notary. We will then try and defer your service to the next soonest week before the next August as you have requested. Download the Affidavit Requesting Excusal or Deferral from Jury Service.
How can you have your week of service rescheduled to a different week?
- Your request must be received at least five days prior to your assigned week of service. A request submitted after the dead-line is automatically denied.
- If you do not receive a message reassigning you to a new week of service, by return e-mail, regular mail or by phone, nor a denial notice, you must contact the Jury Services Division at least 5 days prior to your week of service.
- You are only allowed ONE DEFERRAL. Second deferral requests will be automatically denied.
- If you have any questions you may call the question line between 2 pm and 4:30 pm Monday through Friday (912) 652-7170
- Please indicate the week to which you would like to be rescheduled that is within the present term of court (three month terms) and is before the end of July of the present fiscal year. If your deferral request is granted and if possible, you will be rescheduled to that week or one close to it.
Click to here Request your Jury Duty to be rescheduled
Are you automatically exempt from jury duty service after you reach a certain age?
You are never automatically exempted from jury service, but when you are 70 years of age or older and you receive a summons, you may then request in writing that you want to be exempted because of age. (There is a form provided on the summons sent to you that you may complete, sign and return to us.) Some of our best jurors are 70 years of age and older and enjoy or want to continue serving when summoned!
Are people with some hearing loss able to serve on jury duty?
The courthouse does have hearing devices available for jurors to utilize while serving on jury duty service. Be sure to request a hearing device when you report to the Jury Assembly Room.
Does everyone have to serve - doctors, lawyers, judges, jury managers, teachers, mothers of small children, etc?
Yes, everyone who is summoned and qualified is required to serve. In 1985 the Georgia legislators did away with all occupational exemptions.
Can I bring my child/children with me?
The courthouse does not have child care facilities and children are not allowed in the courtrooms, so jurors need to make childcare arrangements to enable them to report for their jury duty service when their juror number is called to report.
Where do jurors park when they come for jury service?
Usually the free parking that is available for jurors is located on the 4th, 5th, and 6th floors of the County Parking Garage
located next to the courthouse or in the City's Robert Robinson Garage
located across from the courthouse or in the Visitor's Center
parking lot on Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd. Available parking does change periodically, so the Juror Information Line (652-7169) provides daily parking instructions for the jurors who are required to report and there is a map to refer to on the back of their summons envelope. Remember parking is on a "first come, first serve" basis. Be sure and allow enough time to find parking and arrive at the Jury Assembly Room on time.
Will I be required to stay (sequestered) in a hotel if I am selected for a trial?
Most trials in Chatham County are not sequestered jury trials. In fact, from May 1996 to the end of 2005, there was only one sequestered jury trial in Chatham County.
Will my meals be paid for while I am serving on jury duty?
Only if you were selected to be a juror for a trial and the jury deliberation took place during mealtime or you were selected for one of those very infrequent sequestered jury trials, will jurors' meals be paid for by the County. Normally, the judge releases jurors for lunch to return at a specified time, allowing jurors to go wherever they want for meals.
What happens to jurors who don't report when their juror number is called for jury service?
Delinquent jurors may be charged for being in contempt of court, which could involve being sentenced to time in jail and/or a fine. Usually, at the end of the week of service - every Friday - jurors who did not report when called are sent a delinquent notice requiring them to call Jury Services and explain why they disregarded their summons to court. The jurors explanation and whether the trial they were assigned to was able to go forward without them, determines whether they will be turned over to the judge for contempt of court or whether we can work with them to make up their delinquency during another week of service. If a trial has to be canceled because not enough jurors reported, it costs the County thousands of dollars to reschedule the case for another date!
Will I be paid for being a juror?
Yes. You will be paid $10.00 for each day you report on time and are ready to go through the juror selection process. If you are selected to be a juror for a trial and are required to return for a second or subsequent days, you will receive $20.00 per day until that trial is completed.
Must my employer pay me while I am on jury duty? Can I be fired for serving on jury duty?
According to the Annotated Code of Georgia, O.C.G.A.34-1-3, Discrimination against employee for attending a judicial proceeding in response to a court order or process
"shall be unlawful for any employer or the agent of such employer to discharge, discipline, or otherwise penalize an employee for the purpose of attending a judicial proceeding in response to a subpoena, summons for jury duty, or process which requires the attendance of the employee at the judicial proceeding." Further, it is unlawful for any employer or the agent of the employer to take, or communicate an intention of taking any action declared to be unlawful by this subsection. Additionally, an Attorney Generals opinion, No. 89-55, released in 1989, further specifies that, "An employee is entitled to be paid his salary while missing work to serve on jury duty."
What types of cases may require juries?
There are two basic types of cases, criminal and civil (including family cases).
A criminal case results when a person is accused of committing a crime. Jurors must decide whether the person charged is guilty or not guilty. The accused person is presumed innocent, and the State, represented by the District Attorney or an assistant to the District Attorney, must prove guilt "beyond a reasonable doubt."
A civil case results from a disagreement or dispute between two or more parties. In a civil case, jurors must answer questions of disputed facts based upon the testimony and evidence admitted by the judge. The answers to these questions are called the verdict.
Who can have a jury trial?
Any person charged with a criminal offense or any party to a civil case has a right to a jury trial. All parties are equal before the law and each is entitled to the same fair treatment.
How is a juror selected for a particular case?
Cases will usually be heard by juries of 6 or 12 jurors. A larger group, called a panel, will be sent to the trial court (courtroom) where the jurors will be questioned under the supervision of the judge.
A juror may be excused from the panel if it is shown that the juror cannot act impartially concerning the case to be heard. In addition, each side is allowed to remove a given number of jurors from the panel without having to show any reason. The trial jury will be the first 6 or 12 of the remaining jurors on the panel.
Additional jurors may be chosen as alternates in case one of the original 6 or 12 is unable to complete the trial.
What is voir dire or questioning of the jury panel?
It is a way for the parties to select a fair and impartial jury. Under the justice system, you may be questioned by each of the lawyers before they decide to remove a certain number of jurors from the jury panel.
For example: the lawyer may ask you questions to see if you are connected to the trial or if you have any prejudice or bias toward anyone in the trial. These questions are not intended to embarrass you, but rather to help the lawyers in the jury selection process. You may ask the judge to allow you to answer some questions away from the other jurors.
What if I have a special need or emergency?
After you have been chosen to be a juror for a trial, if you have a special need or an emergency, tell the Sheriffs Deputy in charge of the courtroom. Chosen jurors should keep in touch with significant others during trial breaks. In emergency circumstances occurring after 5pm only
, a chosen juror serving on a trial may be contacted by calling 657-5334 or 652-7456 (Courthouse Security). During the day if a juror or their significant other has an emergency, they may call 652-7170 and speak to a Jury Services staff member.
Order of events of the trial
The lawyers for each side may explain the case, the evidence they will present, and the issues for you to decide.
Presentation Of Evidence
The evidence consists of the testimony of witnesses and the exhibits allowed by the judge. Exhibits admitted into evidence will be available to the jury for examination during deliberations. You have a right to ask for them. You will be asked to make decisions regarding disputed facts; therefore, your attention at all times is critically important. Juror note taking or the use of any notes will be determined by the judge.
Rulings By The Judge
The judge may be asked to decide questions of law during the trial. Occasionally, the judge may ask jurors to leave the courtroom while the lawyers make their legal arguments. The jurors should understand that such interruptions are needed to make sure that their verdict is based upon proper evidence, as determined by the judge under the Rules of Evidence. You may give the evidence whatever weight you consider appropriate.
After the Charge of the Court, the lawyers have the opportunity to summarize the evidence in their closing arguments and to try to persuade the jury to accept their client's view of the case.
Instructions To The Jury
At the close of all the evidence, the judge may submit to the jury the Charge of the Court. This will include legal instructions on this particular case and the questions that the jury is to answer from the evidence admitted.
Deliberations And Verdict Of The Jury
Following closing arguments, the jury is sent to deliberate. When the jury has answered the questions asked of them they shall return their verdict. The verdict must be based solely on the evidence presented by the parties, the Charge of the Court, and the rules of law provided by the judge.
Some people have never been to the courthouse and are scared of the whole process, what can they do?
Often jury duty service is the first and possibly only interaction with the criminal justice system that many citizens have. The unknown is scary for most people even jurors. When jurors are called to report to the Jury Assembly Room, they will view an orientation film that will answer most of their questions concerning what is expected of them. The jury staff are also available to assist them during the orientation period. The summonses for jury service are mailed three to four weeks prior to the week of service in order to give those summoned time to contact Jury Services regarding any problems or questions they may have. Jurors may call 652-7170 between 2pm and 4:30pm Monday through Friday and someone in the Jury Services Division will be glad to talk to them. Jury Services also responds to hundreds of correspondence as well as jurors who come to the courthouse themselves with their questions and concerns. Requests may also be faxed to 652-7130 or submitted using the Request to Reschedule Jury Duty form. Jury service is a responsibility and a privilege which the majority of citizens perform without complaint; in fact many jurors enjoy their chance to be part of the justice system. Even jurors who have dreaded coming to serve have expressed how they actually were glad they served. Jury service is not an easy responsibility but it is a very important one!
When In Doubt, Ask The Judge
You have the right to communicate with the judge regarding any matters affecting your deliberations, including but not limited to:
- physical comfort
- special needs
- any questions regarding evidence; or
- the Charge of the Court.
During deliberation, if it becomes necessary to communicate with the judge, a Sheriff's Deputy in the courtroom will deliver jurors' notes to the judge. The information on the web page is not intended to take the place of the instructions given by the judge in any case. In the event of conflict, the judge's instructions will prevail.
Will I ever be called on the phone by jury services personnel?
Jury Services personnel do call jurors periodically to research change of address information and to contact jurors who are delinquent. These phone calls from our staff will never involve requests for anyone’s Social Security # nor anyone’s credit card numbers.
If you would like to verify a call you have received from someone saying they are with Chatham County Jury Services or you have any further questions please call 652-7170 between 2 pm and 4:30 pm Monday through Friday and speak with someone in the Jury Services office.
I lost my summons, what should I do?
Call 652-7170 as soon as possible. Someone in Jury Services will give you all the information you will need to serve, as well as, send you a new summons. If you realized you lost your summons the weekend before your service is to start and you do not know what your Juror number is, report Monday, if any jurors are told to report and follow the instructions that Juror # 1 is given. When you get to the Jury Assembly Room tell one of the Jury Services’ staff about your problem.
Are the instructions for Grand Jury Service different from Jury Service?
Please click here for information on Grand Jury Service.
Tips for coping after jury duty
The Jury Duty Experience
Thank you for serving your community. Being on a jury is a rewarding experience which in some cases may be quite demanding. You were asked to listen to testimony and to examine facts and evidence. Coming to decisions is often not easy, but your participation is appreciated.
Serving on a jury is not a common experience and may cause some jurors to have temporary symptoms of distress.
Not everyone feels anxiety or increased stress after jury duty. However, it may be helpful to be aware of the symptoms if they arise.
Some temporary signs of distress following jury duty include: anxiety, sleep or appetite changes, moodiness, physical problems (e.g. headaches, stomach aches, no energy, and the like), second guessing your verdict, feeling guilty, fear, trouble dealing with issues or topics related to the case, a desire to be by yourself, or decreased concentration or memory problems.
Symptoms may come and go, but will eventually go away. To help yourself, it is important to admit any symptoms you may have and deal with any unpleasant reactions.
Coping Techniques After Serving On A Jury
Talk to family members and friends. One of the best ways to put your jury service experience in perspective is to discuss your feelings and reactions with loved ones and friends. You may also want to talk with your family physician or a member of the clergy.
Stick to your normal, daily routines. It is important to return to your normal schedule. Don't isolate yourself.
Before you leave the court, you may wish to get the names and numbers of at least two of your fellow jurors. Sometimes it is helpful to talk to people who went through the experience with you. This can help you to remember that you were part of a group (jury) and are not alone.
Remember that you are having normal responses to an unusual experience.
- You can deal with signs of distress by cutting down on alcohol, caffeine, and nicotine. These substances can increase anxiety, fatigue and make sleep problems worse.
- Relax with deep breathing.
- Breathe in slowly through your nose and out through your mouth.
- Slow your thoughts down and think about a relaxing scene.
- Continue deep breathing until you feel more relaxed.
- Cope with sleep problems.
- Increase your daily exercise, but do not exercise just before bedtime.
- Decrease your caffeine consumption, especially in the afternoon or evening.
- Do "boring" activities before bedtime.
- Listen to relaxation tapes or relaxing music before bedtime.
Remember that jury service is the responsibility of all good citizens.
Resist negative thoughts about the verdict.
No matter what others think about the verdict, your opinion is the only one that matters.
You don't have to prove yourself to anyone.
Sometimes it takes a lot of courage to serve on a jury. Some cases are very violent and brutal and hard to deal with. The case is now over and it is important for you to get on with your life.
If you are fearful of retaliation or if you are threatened after the trial, tell the court and/or law enforcement immediately.
If signs of distress persist for two weeks after your jury service has ended consider contacting your physician.