Juror innovation has been something that we as consultants have always pushed for since being invited in courtrooms. The mere fact that our position exists is proof that our judicial procedures need a little updating. With the Jody Arias trial being on the media forefront, another brilliant, but debated innovation has been made public: juror questions. This topic wildly diverges from the traditions set in our courtrooms, but is something that’s gaining traction in modern day trials
The Jury Expert gave us this insight:
Most states leave it up to the individual judges’ discretion to allow jurors to ask questions of witnesses in civil trials, either through case law, statute, or with no specific rule mandating or prohibiting such a practice. As of July 1, Illinois becomes the most recent state to specifically allow juror questions2. According to the National Center for State Courts State of the State Courts survey3, several states, such as Arizona, Colorado, Indiana, and Wyoming, mandate that jurors be allowed to ask questions during civil trials. A number of states, including Georgia, Minnesota, Mississippi, and Nebraska, outright prohibit jurors from asking questions of witnesses at trial4.
My personal opinion is that all states should mandate this innovation, but leave it up to the judge’s discretion as to what questions are admitted. The Jody Arias trial was a great public example of this innovation, yet also demonstrated the need for judicial intervention. Even though most of the juror’s questions were genuinely inquisitive and offered insight into where the jury stood, I believe some of them were unnecessary.
The jurors in the highly publicized Jodi Arais case recently submitted to the court over 100 questions for the defendant to answer even after the prosecutor spent days grilling her over every last detail in connection with her self-defense argument. Arizona is one of just three states that allow jurors to pose questions to witnesses after prosecution and defense lawyers have finished their questioning. From the perspective of someone who’s spent some time in the well of the courtroom, I wish New York judges would in the interest of justice, allow jurors to pose additional questions of the witnesses in civil cases even if one side objects to the practice.