We know that the major parties in a criminal prosecution or civil lawsuit can question witnesses and clear up any confusion. Lawyers can question witnesses. Judges can question witnesses. But can jurors question witnesses?
In the Jody Arias murder trial in Arizona, jury members are finally getting their chance to ask the woman accused of killing her ex-boyfriend about circumstances leading to the alleged murder. Jurors submitted more than 100 questions to ask the defendant following 30 days of testimony, ABC News reports.
However, Arizona is one of just a few states that allow jurors to question witnesses. In fact, in most states, jury members are expected to play a more passive role in the trial.
Every state has different rules and court procedures; some address when jurors can (and cannot) question witnesses. Typically, these rules differ based on the type of trial, according to the American Society of Trial Consultants.
Here's a general overview:
- Civil Trials: Several states including Arizona, Colorado, Indiana, Illinois, and Wyoming allow jurors to submit written questions in civil cases such as personal injury lawsuits. The rules may vary as to when jurors can ask their questions, such as at the end of closing arguments or any time a witness is on the stand.
- Criminal Trials: Arizona is one of just three states that allows jury members to question witnesses following direct questioning and cross-examination, reports ABC News. Given the stakes in a criminal trial, it's understandable that most states do not want jury members actively questioning witnesses.
- Juror Questions Not Allowed: Several states prohibit jurors from asking questions at any type of trial. You can check the rules in your state here, at a page maintained by the American Judicature Society.
There may be some benefits of allowing jurors to question witnesses, like allowing jurors to improve their understanding of the relevant legal issues and to clear up any confusion, according to the American Society of Trial Consultants. In addition, attorneys can get some insight into what jury members are thinking.
However, there are some potential drawbacks as well. Lawyers may lose some control of their litigation strategy, and juror questions may not always be relevant. They can also be time-consuming: At Jodi Arias' trial, for example, juror questions took up a full day yesterday, and more juror questions will be asked today.
- Arizona boyfriend killing: Jodi Arias jury has 100 questions for her (The Associated Press)
- Jodi Arias Murder Trial: Jury Selection Begins (FindLaw's Phoenix Criminal Law News)
- What is the Role of a Jury in a Criminal Case? (FindLaw)
- Can You Testify Under Disguise? (FindLaw's Blotter)