A Guide to Missouri Jury Service: Glossary for
Common Words and
Bailiff: An officer who maintains
courtroom order and jury custody.
Beyond a reasonable doubt: Refers to
the amount of proof required in a criminal case. Proof beyond a reasonable doubt
is proof that leaves you firmly convinced of the defendant's guilt. The law does
not require proof that overcomes every possible doubt. It is a higher standard
than required in civil cases.
Challenges: The law authorizes the
judge and the lawyers to excuse individual jurors from service in a particular
case for various reasons. If a lawyer wishes to have a juror excused, he or she
must use a "challenge" for that juror. Challenges are of two
a. For cause - The law sets forth a number of reasons why jurors may be
excused "for cause," that is, for a specified reason, such as bias or prejudice.
For example, a juror who is related to or employed by one of the parties in the
case may be excused for cause. There is no limit to the number of challenges for
b. Peremptory - Each side in a case has a certain number of challenges that
need not be supported by any reason, although a party may not use such a
challenge in a way that discriminates against certain kinds of groups, such as a
racial minority or one gender. These are called peremptory challenges. Each side
may ask the judge to excuse a limited number of particular jurors. If a juror is
excused, this does not imply something bad and does not mean the juror is not
competent in any way. It frequently happens that a prospective juror will be
excused in a certain case and be accepted in another at a later date. The number
of peremptory challenges has been established by the
Civil case/civil suit:
A case involving the law of civil or private
rights. A lawsuit is called a civil case when it is between two or more
individuals or corporations involved in a dispute and usually seeks a judgment
awarding monetary damages.
Constitution: The fundamental law of
our nation that establishes the conception, character, and organization of its
sovereign power and the manner of its exercise. Also, the document that contains
the guiding rules and principles, the descriptions of the power of the
government, and the essential rights of the people of a country or state or
other governing collective.
Controversy: A disagreement or a
dispute that requires a definitive determination of how the law applies to the
facts that are asserted to be true.
Counsel: One or more lawyers who
represent a client.
prosecution/criminal case: A case in which
the State prosecutes an individual for violating a criminal statute.
Degree of proof: The amount of proof necessary to prove a case. In a criminal
case such proof must be beyond a reasonable doubt. In civil cases the standard
is typically by a preponderance of the evidence. The court's instructions to the
jury state the degree of proof necessary in a particular
Deliberations: When a jury goes into the jury room to think about and
discuss evidence and testimony to reach a verdict in a civil or criminal case.
The first task once in the jury room is to select a foreperson.
Directed verdict: After evidence has been presented and if no issue of fact
remains for the jury to determine, the judge will determine, or "direct," the
Disqualification: The condition of
being ineligible for jury service. A person is disqualified or ineligible for
jury service if he or she is not a United States citizen; less than age 21; not
a resident of the county or city of service unless serving in the county or city
by order of the court; convicted of a felony unless restored to civil rights;
unable to read, speak, and understand the English language; active military; a judge; or a person who the court or jury commissioners find
incapable because of mental or physical illness (Sections 494.425, 494.505).
Ineligible/ineligibility: The condition of
being qualified for jury service. A person is eligible for jury service if he or
she is a United States citizen; at least age 21; a resident of the county or
city, unless serving in another county by order of the court; not convicted of a
felony unless restored to civil rights; and able to read, speak, and understand
the English language.
Active military, judges, and persons who the court or jury commissioners find
incapable because of mental or physical illness are ineligible to serve
(Sections 494.425, 494.505).
Evidence: Any type of proof that is
legally presented at trial through witnesses, records, and/or
Excusals: By statute, certain eligible persons may be excused from jury service. On timely application to the court, the court shall excuse from jury service a person who (1) Is actually an employee of a religious institution whose religious obligations or constraints prohibit them serving on a jury (the certification of the employment and obligation or constraint may be provided by the employee's religious supervisor); (2) Has served on a jury within the preceding two years; and (3)
Is a licensed health care worker, if such person can provide a written statement certifying that he or she is actually providing health care services to patients, and that the person's service as a juror would be detrimental to the health of the person's patients. On timely application and in the court's judgment, the court may excuse a person whose absence from work would materially and adversely affect public safety, health, welfare or interest; or a person on whom service would impose an extreme hardship (Section 494.430).
Exhibit: An exhibit is a document or material object produced and identified in
court. It is usually, though not always, provided to introduce it as evidence in
a case. Each document or object is ordinarily given an identifying letter or
number in alphabetical or numerical sequence before it is used in court.
Felony: A serious crime usually punishable by imprisonment exceeding one year.
Examples include murder, rape, arson, and burglary.
Foreperson: At the
beginning of deliberations, the jury votes to select one of its members to be
the foreperson. The jury foreperson's duty is to see that discussion during
deliberations is carried on in a free and orderly manner, that the case and
issues are fully and freely discussed, and that every juror is given a chance to
participate in the discussion. As the deliberations conclude, the foreperson
counts the votes and completes and signs the verdict
Impartial: Without bias or prejudice. The members of a jury should base
their verdict on legal evidence presented during the
Instruction: Guidelines that a judge gives the jury at the beginning and
end of a trial that explain how the case will be conducted and what the jury
must find to reach a verdict.
panel/jury pool: The group of qualified,
potential jurors that are summoned and may be chosen to serve as jurors in a
Jury summons: The papers sent to potential jurors that require them to
report for possible service on a jury.
Jury selection: The process by which
jurors for a particular trial are selected from the larger group of potential
jurors summoned to the courthouse. The first step in a trial is to select from
the jury panel the number of jurors required to try the case. To do so, the
lawyers or the judge may ask potential jurors questions. There are certain legal
grounds for which a juror might be excused, called a challenge for cause, and
each side may excuse a certain number of jurors, called a peremptory challenge.
The challenges do not reflect on the jurors' integrity or intelligence. A
sufficient number of those jurors who have not been excused are sworn to try the
case on its merits or serve as alternates.
Litigants: Any persons or groups
engaged in a lawsuit.
Pending: In process; not yet
Plea: An accused person's formal response, such as "guilty" or "not
guilty," to a criminal charge.
Polled/polling: Calling the names of
the jurors and having them state or affirm their final verdict. This can be done
individually or collectively.
Postpone: To put off until a later
time. An individual who cannot serve as a juror at a particular time may apply
to postpone the date of service. Upon receiving the application, the jury
supervisor or board of jury commissioners, acting in accordance with written
guidelines adopted by the circuit court, may postpone that juror's service to a
later date (Section 494.415.3).
Preponderance of the evidence: Refers
to the amount of proof typically required to win in a civil case. It is that
degree of proof that is more probable than not, the greater weight of the
evidence . It is a lower standard than that which is required in criminal
Form/Questionnaire: A qualification form or
questionnaire may be sent to citizens to determine if they are qualified to
serve as a juror. A juror must respond to a qualification form within the time
stated on the form. A person who fails to appear or respond may be guilty of civil contempt, enforceable by an order to show cause for the failure to
comply and by a fine not to exceed $500.00. If you have any questions, contact the jury
office of the court that summoned you at the telephone number on the documents
you received (Sections 494.415, 494.450).
Sequestration: Isolation or
segregation of a jury during trial. A sequestered jury usually stays together
and cannot contact people outside the court. Sequestration rarely occurs and is
meant for jurors' protection. It is used to keep the jurors away from the media
or others that could improperly influence a juror's decision. The court will
inform jurors if they will be sequestered.
Source list: The list or lists from
which citizens are selected to receive a jury summons. Potential jurors are
selected randomly from the voter registration list and the department of
revenue's driver's license records and may include other lists such as the
property tax rolls.
Subpoena: An official order to attend
court at a stated time. The most common use of the subpoena is to summon
witnesses to court for the purpose of testifying in a trial.
Testimony: Evidence given by a witness under oath.
Unable to serve: If you
have health problems or other personal commitments that cannot be rescheduled at
the time you are initially called, a postponement may be available. Contact your
local jury office.
Unanimous: When all people on a jury
agree on the verdict. In a criminal case, the verdict must be unanimous. In a
civil case, only three-fourths of the jurors must agree on their verdict.
Verdict: The jury's finding or decision on the factual issues of a case. The
verdict has to be in writing, signed by the foreperson, and reported to the
court. It is read to the jury by the court clerk or the judge. In civil cases,
each juror who agrees to the verdict signs it (Section
Voir dire: Translated from the French, means 'to speak the truth.' With
regard to juries, it is the questioning that occurs in jury selection to decide
whether the potential jurors may serve on the jury.
Witness: One who can give a
firsthand account of something seen, heard, or experienced.