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Published in: on February 16, 2011 at 1:41 pm  Comments (4)  

Jury Duty, from thrills to snores


Life has changed a lot over the last few centuries, but the basis of the judicial system has stayed the same.  The jury trial has not had a significant make over the last centuries.  What was an exciting affair to be apart of years ago is now something that most citizens absolutely try to avoid.

So what happened?  Technology, life and many more things have changed over the years.  Before, in the 18 century it was difficult to get the news and find out what happened in our community.  Back in those days a jury trial was straight entertainment.  It was one of the few times in which people had a chance to hear stories and see what was going on in their community.  Now, the news is readily available, we see it on television, hear in it in the car and even read it on our phones.

In this high pace society we now have, people are constantly on the move.  More and new fascinating things to thrill are minds are being invented on a daily basis.  New technologies are coming out ever day finding new and exciting ways to entertain our minds.

Then there is the court system.  Very little has changed.  The system is slow and deliberate with the goal of ensuring rights and not providing entertainment.  The court has tried to incorporate things to captivate attention such as photos, use of models, power points, and videos.  However, at the end of the day, the jury trial is still a story telling process. Unfortunately, technology has made an average person’s attention span towards hearing a story very short.  Just remember, the next time that you have jury duty, though it may not captivate you as it would have centuries ago, you are still apart of a very important process.

For more information: visit http://www.attorneychan.com or contact me at 508-808-8902

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Published in: on September 17, 2010 at 2:15 pm  Leave a Comment  

What are the lawyers and the judge whispering about over there?


If you have ever sat on a jury, you may notice that there are a lot of side bar conferences.  A side bar conference is essentially a conversation between the lawyers and the judge that is kept away from the jury.  For the most part, jurors hate side bar conferences because they feel as though useful information is being kept from them. 

Side bar conferences may also annoy jurors because it takes time and slows down the trial.  A judge may call a side bar conference at any point.  The lawyers may ask the judge for a side bar conference and it is up to the judge to grant that conference.  If a side bar conference is going to be conducted, both lawyers need to approach the judge’s bench.  If the conversation takes too long, the judge may opt to have a further hearing and ask the jury to step out of the room. 

So what is really going on during a side bar conference?  Well, there is really no one good answer.  Side bar conferences are used to go over a number of issues that are inappropriate to be discussed in front of the jury.  It could be something as simple as how certain evidence or items in the court room should be presented.  A lawyer could be asking the court room to be set up in a certain fashion.  More likely is that the judge is ruling on the rules of law and if certain evidence is allowed to be admitted. 

You may find side bar conferences very annoying.  After all, secrets are no fun, but it is important that you stay patient.  The point of side bar conferences is not to keep relevant information from the jury, but to keep irrelevant information from the jury.  If the jury hears evidence that violate the rules of evidence that can lead to an appeal or a mistrial.  If the court declares a mistrial it could make them restart the case in front of another jury.  Therefore, a little patience for side bar conferences can save the process a lot of time. 

For more information: visit http://www.attorneychan.com or contact me at 508-808-8902

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Do you really know what a jury trial is about?


Unless you were chosen to serve as a juror, most people don’t know what jury trials are really about.  Sure, court room dramas are nice, but movies seldom explain the process.  Here are a few points about one of your most important consitutional rights. 

 The number of jurors: Depending on what court you are being tried, the number of jurors will vary.  The district court requires a unanimous decision by 6 jurors.  The superior court requires a unanimous decision by 12 jurors.  In short, the superior court requires twice as many jurors to return a verdict.  One reason for this difference is that the penalties are much more severe in superior court.  The stakes being higher, the amount of jurors are also higher. 

 Alternates: Most judges will sit more jurors than is required.  In both the district court and the superior court it is very common for the judge to impanel more jurors than required.  Judges will sit alternate jurors in case people have emergencies that arise.  If a judge empanels the minimum amount of jurors and a juror is unable to perform his or her duties, then the judge will most likley have to declare a mistrial.  To avoid this problem, judges will sit additional jurors. 

 Impaneling a jury:  The amount of time it takes to impanel a jury can very significantly.  Essentially, the court wants to impanel an impartial jury and for certain cases this can be difficult.  If you have jury duty, I am sure this isn’t something that you want to hear.  Cases that particularly take a long time to impanel a jury are cases involving sex offenses.  It can take days if not weeks to impanel a jury for a child molestation or rape case.  So if you are serving jury duty and find yourself as a potential jury in a sex offense case prepare for a long process. 

 Decision: As I have mentioned before, a jury decision in Massachusetts needs to be unanimous.  This means that the entire jury needs to agree with the decision of guilty or not guilty.  As you can imagine, this can make for long jury deliberations. 

 This post gives you a little background on jury trials.  Jury trials are complicated and it is never a good idea to represent yourself in a trial.  In the end, it is important to remember that it is not a perfect system.  However, it is bar far the best one ever created.

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 For more information:

 About the Massachusetts Jury System

http://www.mass.gov/courts/jury/introduc.htm

 Preparing for a jury trial

http://articles.directorym.com/Preparing_for_a_Jury_Trial_Agawam_MA-r935226-Agawam_MA.html

Glossary of trial terms

http://guides.gottrouble.com/Glossary_of_Jury_Trial_Terms_Massachusetts-r1204930-Massachusetts.html

Defense of Massachusetts Jury Service System

http://www.associatedcontent.com/article/1289579/defense_of_massachusetts_jury_service.html?cat=17

Anatomy of a jury trial

http://www.america.gov/media/pdf/ejs/0709.pdf#popup

Vanishing Civil Jury Trials

http://legaltalknetwork.com/podcasts/boston-bar/2009/04/the-vanishing-civil-jury-trial/

For more information: visit http://www.attorneychan.com or contact me at 508-808-8902

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Published in: on November 3, 2009 at 3:41 am  Leave a Comment