B. Overview of Jury Service
1. Receipt of a Summons
2. Statutory Disqualifications
3. Students and Jury Duty
4. Compensation for Jury Service
5. Failure to Report
C. Trial Court Departments with Jury Sessions
D. Day of Jury Service
1. Juror Orientation
3. Juror's Role During Trial
4. Deliberation and Verdict
5. Certificate of Service
E. Inclusion of Minorities and Women
1. African-American Jurors
2. Women Jurors
The Massachusetts Jury System
Jurors usually are summonsed three months in advance of their scheduled court date. All jurors may postpone their service up to one year from their original summons date. No reason is needed to request this postponement.
Prospective jurors are selected randomly by computer from a Master Juror List, which is created each year by the Office of the Jury Commissioner (OJC) using street lists submitted annually by each city and town in the Commonwealth. Jurors are randomly assigned to courts located within their respective "judicial districts" (usually, their counties). That means jurors are not always assigned to appear at the jury courthouse nearest to their homes. This is because, by law, the OJC is required to provide "demographic cross-sections" in all jury pools. Not only should the ideal jury pool reflect the ethnic diversity of the community, but it should also reflect a cross-section of residents from all the member towns of that judicial district.
Not all residents who are summonsed for jury duty are eligible to serve. There are 10 major statutory disqualifications from juror service. A person is disqualified if he or she is:
1. Not a United States citizen.
2. Under age 18.
3. Over age 70. This is the only optional disqualification; after age 70, citizens may decline to serve.
4. Unable to speak and understand English. Those U.S. citizens who do not speak and understand English sufficiently well may be disqualified, but those citizens who speak English on the job and socially should report and enhance the diversity of the jury pool. Jurors are not expected to speak perfect English.
5. Permanently relocated out of the county. If one is only temporarily absent, he or she is elgible to serve.
6. Residing outside of the county for more than one year. This generally applies to those who are serving in the armed forces.
7. A felon convicted fewer than seven years before receiving the jury summons. Any person charged with a felony or serving a sentence because of a felony conviction is also ineligible to serve.
8. A person who has served as a juror within the past three years. If summonsed within the three-year grace period, jurors need only provide the OJC with their juror certificate or previous juror ID number.
9. A person incapable, by reasons of a physical or mental disability, of rendering service. A medical note from a qualified practicioner must state that the physicial or mental condition prevents a person from serving as a juror.
10. A primary caregiver for a disabled person. A juror who takes care of someone at home around the clock must obtain a note from the sick person's doctor stating that he or she is the primary caregiver. Those who work outside the home are not disqualified from jury service.
There are no student exemptions from jury duty. Like all jurors, students may defer their service up to one year from the original date.
College students may be called to serve in several different circumstances.
First, Massachusetts residents who study out of state and who are summonsed from Massachusetts must serve. Again, the postponement option is available so that a student may report during the summer or vacation breaks.
Second, Massachusetts residents who study in a different county in Massachusetts may receive a summons from the county where their school is located. For example, a Boston resident (from Suffolk County) who enrolls at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst (in Hampshire County), may be summonsed to appear for jury duty in Hampshire County. It is possible for students to receive two summonses, one from the home county, and the other from the school county. They must serve in response to only one summons, whichever one was issued first.
Third, out-of-state students who study in Massachusetts and live here for six months of the year or more are eligible to serve in Massachusetts. This often comes as a surprise to out-of-state students, who may come from a jurisdiction where only permanent residents of that state are eligible to serve.
Massachusetts law obligates employers to pay their juror-employees for the first three days of juror service. The Commonwealth compensates jurors at a rate of $50 per day starting on the fourth day of jury duty. Unless a financial hardship is recognized by a judge, self-employed jurors must compensate themselves for the first three days of service. Unemployed jurors may apply for "out-of-pocket" expenses of up to $50 starting on the first day of service and would receive $50 a day starting on the fourth day of service.
Jurors who fail to report for juror service may face a criminal complaint and a fine up to $2000. The OJC's Legal Department pursues every person who fails to perform (or complete) his or her jury service, but gives them opportunities to resolve their delinquencies before criminal prosecution.