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Role of the juror: To ask or not to ask?

Role of the juror: To ask or not to ask?

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Until I saw coverage of the Jodi Arias trial, I never heard of the Arizona law that allows jurors to ask witnesses questions. I was really surprised to learn of this Arizona practice because it often seems that we as attorneys go to great lengths to control what the jury can and can’t consider (and hear) during the trial.

I am not sure how I feel about allowing jurors to ask questions. In theory, questions are always a good idea, right? A more informed juror should be better equipped to make the best decision. And, as we’ve seen with the Arias trial, it certainly puts the witness’s credibility on display.

We allow the jurors to deliberate together in the jury room after the trial and they are undoubtedly asking these questions of each other in the jury room. So should it really matter that they get the chance to ask them a bit earlier in open court? Trials can be long and they can be tedious, so allowing jurors to ask questions and get answers could help them feel as though they have more of an active role in the trial.

Of course, there is a procedure the question asking. The jurors must first submit their written questions to the judge. If the judge deems the question fair (and the lawyers are allowed to object) the judge will ask the witness the juror’s question.

I think allowing jurors to ask questions would make attorneys’ jobs more complicated. Having to anticipate not only the questions of the opposing side but those of every member of the jury would be difficult. I also wonder if the possibility of juror’s asking questions would make defendants less likely to testify in some cases or if this practice tends to benefit one side or the other.

What do you perceive to be the role of a juror? Should jurors be allowed to ask questions, and if so how does that change the role of the attorneys?

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