How a jury is selected

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A jury is made up of 12 people, but more than 12 people are summoned to the selection process. This is to make sure the jury is made up of a variety of people that accurately represents wider community.

This means that even though you’ve been summoned, you might not get selected to be on a jury.

Pre-trial ballot

When you arrive at court, you’ll be asked for your name and asked to wait in the area set aside for jurors. The court will play a DVD for you to watch about being on a jury.

The court registrar will usually randomly draw the names of possible jurors from a ballot box, and these people will go into a courtroom. In some courts, or if there’s only one trial happening that day, there may not be a pre-trial ballot process.

If your name wasn’t called, you might be:

  • asked to wait for a second pre-trial ballot later in the day
  • told you can go home or back to work. You’ll need to look on the Ministry of Justice website or call the court to check if you need to come back to court the next day or later in the week.

Jury ballot

If your name was called out in the pre-trial ballot, you’ll go to the next stage of the process, which is the jury ballot. 

The jury ballot is held in the courtroom. The defendant will be in the courtroom and you’ll be told what they’ve been charged with. 

The court registrar will call out people’s names. If your name is called, you’ll be asked to walk to the jury box.

If at this point you need to be excused for any reason that’s not related to your health or an emergency, you should tell court staff that you have a problem that may stop you from being a juror. You should ask to speak to the judge. The judge will then decide whether you’ll be excused.

Examples of reasons not related to your health or an emergency include:

  • your request for an excusal or deferral has been declined
  • you have language difficulties
  • your knowledge of someone involved with the case, or your personal experiences, could affect your ability to be fair and open-minded.

Challenge

If a lawyer calls out the word “challenge” before you sit down in the jury box, it means you won’t be selected to be part of that jury. Court staff will let you know if you need to stay for another pre-trial ballot or if you can leave the court.

If a lawyer challenges you, don’t take it personally. A challenge is a usual part of the jury process and lawyers don’t have to give a reason for challenging jurors. They can use their challenges to get a cross-section of people on the jury.

No challenge

If you’re not challenged, you take your seat in the jury box and wait to be sworn in.

Swearing-in process

As a juror, you must promise to do your best to be fair and open-minded. You make this promise by swearing an oath or making an affirmation. Court staff will help you do this. 

The jury is then ‘empanelled’ — this just means that the 12 people are officially confirmed as the jury for the trial.

At a time decided by the judge, the jury will be asked to choose a foreperson who will represent the jury during the trial. The foreperson leads the discussion and makes sure jurors discuss the issues openly, fairly, in an orderly way and with respect for every juror’s opinion. They oversee the voting process, count the votes and sign the verdict form.

The foreperson is also responsible for delivering to the court attendant any communications the jury may want to make to the judge, and for announcing the verdicts in the courtroom at the end of the trial.

In some longer trials, the foreperson may be chosen later in the trial, rather than at the beginning.

The trial will then begin.