A Guide to Muskegon County Jury Service
This Web site 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.
As a juror, you play an essential role in the American system of justice.
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 do we have 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. 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
The amendments quoted below are from your United States Constitution. They discuss the
right to a jury trial.
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
"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.