Jury duty is civic duty to our neighbors and friends. To serve well as a juror is to carry on a great tradition of human liberty. The responsibility is heavy, but the reward of serving your community, and doing a necessary job makes it all abundantly worth while.
Jurors are called upon to try two types of cases -- civil and criminal. A juror will not know which type of case they will be serving on and it may change from one day to the next. Civil cases are usually disputes between two or more parties concerning monies, damages for injures, or property. Criminal Cases are filed in the name of the State of Mississippi on an indictment returned by the Grand Jury charging that person, or persons, called defendants, committed the particular crime.
Because crime is a violation of State Law there is specific punishment for the guilty.
Prospective Juror Requirements
- 21+ years of age
- Can read & write
- NOT a convicted felon, habitual drunkard, or common gambler
- Has not been convicted of the illegal sale of (or does not have interest in) alcoholic beverages in the last five years
- Does not have a case pending in this court
Prospective Juror Selection
Prospective jurors' names are drawn at random-- by lot or chance -- from a jury wheel. Therefore, an individual may never be called to serve and others may be called several times. If you are selected to report for jury duty you will receive a letter from the Circuit Clerk.
Received letter for Jury Duty?
The Jury Duty letter will have a summons date. Please call the following numbers after 6:00 PM. You will be told if and when you are expected to report.
Circuit Court: (228) 769-3044 or... (800) 696-3044
County Court: (228) 769-3204 or... (800) 696-3204
You MUST CALL the night before you are summoned to court and each night thereafter.
Excuses from Jury Service
All citizens are obligated to take part in seeing that justice is done. Therefore, only legal excuses provided by law should be presented. In general these include:
- Illness, or presence required at home
- Personal hardship
- Served on jury duty (on actual trial of a case) in this court in last two (2) years
- Over the age of 65 years and you desire to claim this personal exemption
- A juror is paid a nominal fee by a pay warrant for their services.
- he Circuit Clerk keeps a daily record of the jurors who serve.
A Trial Juror's Handbook will be distributed to every prospective juror. The handbook explains the Trial Process in more detail and outlines the rules and expectations of a juror while in court and after the trial. For a copy of the Handbook please contact the Circuit Clerk's office at (228) 769-3040
Once you report to the Courthouse for Jury Duty you can expect the following to take place:
- Oath: The clerk will administer the oath and question will be asked to qualify the person for jury duty.
- Jury Selection: the selection of jurors who have taken oath and are qualified to serve as a juror. The process is as follows:
- Voir dire (to speak the truth) of the jury panel - The judge introduces the parties to the law suit and the lawyers and asks general questions about your qualifications to sit as a juror on that case.
- Opening Statement - The lawyers give their views or opinions of what the proof and evidence will be in the case.
- Questioning -- The lawyers are allowed to questions jury panel about their qualifications to sit as juror in that case.
- Selection -- The lawyers are allowed to consult with their clients and select jurors (12 for Circuit Court or 6 for County Court) and alternates. The lawyers are allowed to excuse ('challenge') a juror for two reasons:
- For Cause - knowledge of case
- Peremptory -- for no reason whatsoever -- only allowed four in civil cases and six in criminal cases
- Trial: There are 6 stages of a trial.
- Lawyers give opening statements to tell you what they expects to prove.
- Evidence of the Plaintiff (or State) normally consisting of testimony of witnesses, and exhibits on which the plaintiff bases its case is presented.
- Evidence for the Defendant normally consisting of testimony of witnesses and exhibits in opposition to the Plaintiff's case, and in support of the Defendant's case is presented.
- Plaintiff may then offer evidence in rebuttal to deny, or explain defendant's evidence. Sometimes a surrebuttal may be allowed by the Defendant.
- Written instructions outlining the law applicable to the issues to be decided by the jury are read by the judge. By law the judge is not allowed to comment on the evidence.
- The lawyers on each side make oral arguments to the jury in which they review and analyze the evidence, and give their reasons for claiming the evidence supports their case.
- Final Deliberation & Verdict
- Civil Cases - to decide the case upon a preponderance of the evidence, and fix the amount of damages to be awarded, if there are damages, and 9 or more jurors may agree upon the verdict
- Criminal Cases -- to decide if an accused person is guilty, or not guilty of the crime with which the person is charged by a unanimous (all 12 jurors must agree) verdict beyond a reasonable doubt.