Everything You Need to Know About Jury Duty in St. Louis – The Most Common Questions Answered
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Everything You Need to Know About Jury Duty in St. Louis – The Most Common Questions Answered

Everything You Need to Know About Jury Duty in St. Louis – The Most Common Questions Answered

Every person accused of a crime in the United States has a right to be tried in front of a jury of their peers. That jury can vary in size. Though most traditionally think of a 12-person jury as the standard, it’s possible for juries to contain as few as six people.

But despite jury duty being a staple of the American justice system for centuries, many don’t know how it works or what being a juror entails. That’s where this article comes in. It answers some of the most common questions about jury duty, from what eligibility requirements you must meet to the process for securing an exemption from jury duty in St Louis.

Everything You Need to Know About Jury Duty in St. Louis – The Most Common Questions Answered

What Is Jury Duty?

If every person has a right to be tried in front of a jury of their peers, jury duty is the mechanism used to ensure that the jury contains peers. In other words, it’s an obligation placed on you to consider the evidence offered in a case so you can pass a “guilty” or “not guilty” verdict.

Juries don’t pass judgment on the accused themselves.

In the case of a “guilty” verdict, sentencing and final judgment is the responsibility of the judge presiding over the case. But that judge takes their cue from the jury, with the jury’s decision determining if the judge passes a sentence or allows the accused to go free. Think of the jury as a filter for all the information generated during a trial and you’re on the right track.

How Are Jurors Selected?

Every district court has a list of eligible jurors available. This list comes from a combination of sources, including driver’s licenses and voter registration, with the court essentially picking who’ll serve as a juror out of a hat.

Assuming yours is one of the names selected, you enter a pool of potential jurors. In St. Louis, the next step is the completion of the Juror Qualification Questionnaire. You’re asked questions and must submit the answers to the following address:

Jury Duty Supervisor
10 North Tucker
3rd Floor, Civil Courts Bldg.
St. Louis, Missouri 63101

Alternatively, you can complete the questionnaire online via the Missouri Juror Portal.

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The courts take the answers each selected person provides and uses them, along with the negotiations of the trial counsel, to select from the pool. The goal here is to weed out the people who may not judge the trial fairly. An obvious example is that the questionnaire may reveal that a potential juror is related to the accused, creating a conflict of interest that causes them to be barred from that particular jury.

How Many People Are Called to Jury Duty Each Year

The number varies, especially when considering that you may get called to both local and federal juries. For instance, the Pew Research Center discovered that 194,211 people received a summons for “petit jury duty” in a federal court in 2016, with only 43,697 of those summoned actually going on to serve at a trial.

That’s an interesting statistic. It shows that only about a quarter of summoned jurors actually make it to the juror’s box. The rest may be excluded for various reasons or never end up in trial, as may happen in the case of a settlement being reached.

What Types of Cases Do Juries Hear?

The United States Courts defines two types of juries you may become a part of if you receive a summons:

  • Trial Jury
  • Grand Jury

A trial jury is also known as a “petit jury” (as mentioned in the Pew figures earlier) and can be either a criminal case or a civil case in which the jury decides if the defendant injured the plaintiff. These are among the more flexible trials, with jury sizes ranging from six to 12 people and many of them being conducted in public. The jury is responsible for passing down the verdict in these trials.

Grand Juries, as the name implies, are juries that operate on a much grander scale. Trials are private and the jury may range anywhere from 16 to 23 people in size. Interestingly, jurors don’t pass down “guilty” or “not guilty” verdicts in these trials. Rather, they’re there to establish whether there’s probable cause to believe the defendant committed a crime. Should the jury decide that probable cause exists, the defendant receives an indictment and usually has to defend themselves in front of a trial jury.

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What Are the Eligibility Requirements for Jury Duty in St Louis?

You must meet all of the following requirements to even be considered to serve on a jury:

  • Be a United States resident aged 21 or over
    • Note – this is different from the national standard of 18 or above
  • You’ve resided in the county or city that sends the summons for at least one year
  • You’re proficient enough in English to read, speak, and write well enough to complete your qualification form
  • You have no mental or physical conditions that may disqualify you from a jury
  • There are no felonies on your record and you’re not currently subject to felony charges
    • Note – you may still receive a summons if you’ve had your federal rights restored

How Can I Secure a Jury Duty Exemption?

Beyond committing a felony to ensure you don’t receive a summons, you’re automatically exempt from jury duty if you’re a member of the armed forces. The same applies to “public officers,” such as local government officers, and people working in the police or fire departments.

As for St. Louis specifically, you may also receive an exemption if you already served on a jury in the past two years. Those nursing children can also be exempt, as could any who’d experience financial hardship as a result of their service. Employees of religious institutions can also get exemptions, especially if their employment or religious obligations create a conflict of interest in the trial. Finally, healthcare workers may gain exemption, assuming they can prove that their jury service could potentially harm their patient.

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Be Prepared if You’re Called

Jury duty can feel like an unwanted obligation.

But it’s your legal duty to serve on a jury when called, unless you have a reason for exemption, just as it’s the legal right of defendants to be tried by a jury of peers. Don’t ignore the call. Rather, learn as much about the process as possible so you’re prepared. Remember – most of those called up for jury duty don’t make it to the box.

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