In the wake of the trial that started this week in the death of George Floyd, it seems like an opportune time to discuss the role of a jury in MN family law cases.
There are two types of trials: trial by judge or trial by jury. Minnesota divorce cases are tried to the court. Still, there are room for juries in family court.
Paternity cases in Minnesota may be tried to a jury. A jury trial or a “trial by peers” means six to twelve local men and women will serve on a jury and hear a case. At the end of the trial, they consult or “deliberate” with each other to come to a verdict. Jury trials can take place in both civil and criminal cases.
Individuals are randomly selected for jury duty from the state’s driver’s licenses and voter registration records. A potential juror will be summoned through the mail with specific instructions.
Jury duty does have specific qualifications. Minnesota’s qualifications for jury selection are:
- U.S. Citizenship;
- Resident in the case’s county;
- 18 years of age;
- Fluent in English;
- Physically capable of serving;
- Mentally capable of serving;
- Civil rights or restored civil rights if a felon; and
- No previous jury duty in the last 4 years.
If a person does not fulfill all of the qualifications, they can be excused from their duty. It is important to note not fulfilling the conditions does NOT mean you are exempt from serving. You will simply need to be excused by the court. Even if a person has all the qualifications, they still may be eliminated for the jury in a legal process called “voir dire”.
In voir dire, the attorneys for both sides will ask different questions. The questions may be asked individually or as groups. During the interview questions, if one of the attorneys feels you cannot be impartial or unbiased, you can be excused from serving. This is called a peremptory challenge. If you know a party, attorney, or witness to the case, you should let the judge know of the conflict.
Once you have been selected to serve on a jury, you will begin jury orientation. This consists of detailed explanations of your duties and taking an oath. As a juror, you will sit in the courtroom’s jury box and listen to all of the supporting evidence of both sides. At the end of the trial, jurors will be guided to a separate room to “deliberate.” During this time, jurors will discuss the case and come to a verdict to be read before the court.
Do you have more questions? Our office is ready to help you with your legal needs. Contact our office today at (763) 783-5146 or submit an online contact inquiry request through our website.