Jury Commission

A Guide to Muskegon County Jury Service

This website is designed for jurors, employers and the public to use to find useful information about Muskegon County's jury system.

The buttons to the left provide links to specific information regarding jury service, frequently asked questions, information for employers regarding employer obligations, detailed information on the trial process, as well as a glossary containing definitions of all underlined words contained in the text.

Thomas Jefferson quote - First inaugural address

As a juror, you play an essential role in the American system of justice.

Juror Duties & Process

You do not need any special skills or legal knowledge to be a juror. You do need to keep an open mind and be willing to make decisions free of personal feelings and biases. As a juror, you will listen to opening statements and closing arguments for both sides. You will also learn about and weigh the evidence that has been collected for the trial. Then you will be asked to make a decision about the case after you have talked it over with the other jurors during deliberations.

During the trial, the judge serves as the court's presiding officer and as the final authority on the law. The lawyers act as advocates for their sides of the case. As a juror, you are responsible for impartially evaluating the facts presented and for applying the law to these facts as the judge instructs you. These combined efforts bring about the fair and impartial administration of justice in our state and nation.

Jury Service: Making a Difference

Why a Jury System

The Constitution of the United States guarantees each U.S. citizen a right to trial by jury in both criminal and civil matters. The jury must be present and hear evidence, and it also must be impartial. Impartial means that the jurors must not have already made up their minds about the outcome of the case. 

Thomas Jefferson quote

To ensure that the jury is impartial, the lawyers for both sides of a case have the opportunity to remove any jurors who appear to them to be biased. Juries must also be representative. This means that the jurors must be from the same community where the crime or injury occurred and the jury pool must reflect the makeup of the larger community.

The amendments quoted below are from your United States Constitution. They discuss the right to a jury trial.

Amendment VI

"In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the state and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the assistance of counsel for his defense."

Amendment VII

"In suits at common law, where the value in controversy shall exceed twenty dollars, the right of trial by jury shall be preserved, and no fact tried by a jury, shall be otherwise reexamined in any court of the United States, than according to the rules of the common law."

The Michigan Constitution of 1963 also contains provisions protecting the right to a jury trial in certain cases.

Article I, § 14 Jury Trials

The right of trial by jury shall remain, but shall be waived in all civil cases unless demanded by one of the parties in the manner prescribed by law. In all civil cases tried by 12 jurors a verdict shall be received when 10 jurors agree

Article I, § 20 Rights of Accused in Criminal Prosecutions

In every criminal prosecution, the accused shall have the right to a speedy and public trial by an impartial jury, which may consist of less than 12 jurors in prosecutions for misdemeanors punishable by imprisonment for not more than 1 year.

Jury service has not always been as universal a right as it is today. The social movements that have shaped our country have also influenced the history of the jury. With the end of slavery, African Americans were supposed to be able to serve on juries. In fact, not many blacks served until the next major step forward in our racial history: the civil rights movement. Likewise, women could not serve on juries until after they won the right to vote in 1920 with the passage of the 19th Amendment to the Constitution. Women were rarely seen on juries until the women's movement in the 1960s applied pressure to an unrepresentative system. Today, people with disabilities are claiming their rightful place in the jury box and demanding the appropriate accommodations in order to participate fully.

Jurors Enjoy Serving

Over and over, jurors who have served tell us they enjoy being involved in making an important civic decision. Often jury service is the most direct participation the average citizen can have in the workings of government. Some jurors have even decided to go back to school or change careers after their experiences as jurors. In Democracy in America, Alexis de Toqueville, an important 19th century French historian, had this to say about juries:

"I do not know whether a jury is useful to the litigants, but I am sure it is very good for those who have to decide the case. I regard it as one of the most effective means of popular education at society's disposal."

You Are Important to Our Jury System

Without you, the jury system cannot work the way the authors of the Constitution wanted. Yet jury service means rearranging schedules, canceling appointments, and oftentimes missing work. But if you were on trial, wouldn't you want someone like you to make the sacrifices necessary to be a part of your jury? Your public service as a juror protects our right to have a trial by an impartial jury.

Alexis de Toqueville quote