Being called for jury duty can bring about a wide variety of emotions – excitement, dread, anxiety or even fear. However, jury duty is generally seen as one of the cornerstones of our justice system. Jury duty provides citizens with an opportunity to play a key role in the administration of justice. It also helps maintain our fundamental rights and freedoms.
Most jury trials involve criminal matters. Some civil matters may also involve jury trials.
Jurors must be impartial. Being impartial means hearing the case without prejudice and using the evidence presented at trial to come to a verdict.
Individuals of a particular race, sex or income bracket do not have a right to be tried by a jury made up entirely of like individuals. Jury pools should, however, represent a cross-section of society. No group should be discriminated against.
In Saskatchewan juries are selected from a jury pool. The jury pool is made up of individuals over 18. They are randomly selected using health services numbers. These individuals receive a summons. The summons indicates the time and place that they must attend for jury selection. They must also complete and return a juror information form. The form gathers some basic personal information as well as information about difficulties serving on a jury could cause.
The summons and juror information form also includes information for potential jurors. The information includes…
Eligible individuals who are not excluded may still be excused under some circumstances. Individuals over the age of 65 and those who have served on a jury within the last two years can be excused. Requests from other individuals may also be considered if they would suffer personal or financial hardship as a result of jury duty or if they are ill or otherwise incapable of performing their duties. Similarly, individuals may be excused on religious grounds.
Eligible individuals must be Saskatchewan residents, over the age of 18 and Canadian citizens. Groups of people who are generally excluded from jury duty include law enforcement officers, judges, lawyers, justice personnel, elected officials and spouses of any of these groups. Individuals who are confined to an institution and those certified as incompetent are also excluded.
Jury selection takes place from eligible individuals placed in the jury pool. The process takes place before the beginning of a trial. The judge will make some preliminary comments about the nature of the case. They will also make some inquiries to determine whether prospective jurors can act as impartial judges of the facts. Determining the facts of a case is the key role of jurors. Judges will interpret the law and provide the jury with appropriate instructions as to what the law is, but it is up to the jury to decide the facts of the case that will be applied to the law. Jurors must determine the facts of a case based on the evidence before them in court; they must not be influenced by factors not before the court. As this is a very serious duty, lawyers for both sides may challenge a potential juror that they would like to see excused.
Individuals who receive a summons cannot simply choose to ignore it. A summons is a legal document requiring attendance as set out in the summons. By law, the individual is required to complete and submit the return information within 5 days of receiving the summons. Failure to obey the summons can result in a fine of up to $1000. Selected individuals will receive some financial compensation for time spent as a juror.
The Government of Saskatchewan offers a program to provide confidential and professional counselling to jurors who have experienced personal difficulties as a consequence of serving as a juror. For more information about the program and general information about jury duty visit the Courts of Saskatchewan.