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The Jury

A jury is a group of 12 people who listen to evidence in a criminal case and decide on whether the legal guilt of the accused has been proven.

They must follow the judge's instructions on how to apply the law to the facts, but it is their responsibility to make findings of fact and to decide if the Crown has proven its case against the accused.

Did You Know?

The role of the jury as "finder of fact" reflects our society's belief that the average adult has learned, through experience, and common sense, how to understand the evidence and explanations given by the witnesses and the arguments made by the lawyers about the evidence in the case.

Jury Selection

Jury selection for a criminal trial is usually done before the trial starts. A large number of potential jurors are first selected randomly from the British Columbia voters list. There is a selection process that involves both the Crown and defence lawyers. 12 people are chosen to sit as the jury for the whole trial. It is considered the duty of a citizen to serve on a jury when summoned, although there are reasons a person might be excused, including financial hardship.

Our jury system has a number of rules and protocols that govern selection and the role of the jury in the trial process.

  • jury panellists must be Canadian citizens, provincial residents, and at least 19 years old
  • jury panellists receive a jury summons in the mail (in British Columbia, the names are selected from the voter's list)
  • jury panellists must attend court for a process referred to as “jury selection”
  • participating in the process is a legal obligation as well as the duty and right of members of the community served by the justice system. The Jury Act allows some exemptions from jury service based on extraordinary circumstances
  • jurors are expected to make up their minds independently,
  • jurors are not allowed to discuss the details of the case with anyone (even family members) outside the courtroom,
  • in Canada, jurors are not permitted at anytime to tell anyone what was discussed or done by the jury in making its decision or to provide reasons as to why they reached a particular verdict
  • the identities of the jurors are not made public.

Coming to a Verdict

To have either a not guilty or guilty verdict, all of the jurors must make a unanimous verdict (decision). That is, they must all vote the same way. Victims should know that it can sometimes take several days or weeks for the jury to reach a decision. If they are unable to decide unanimously this means there is a hung jury and the judge will have to order a new trial.

The jury will hold their discussions in a separate room but once all the evidence and arguments have been given, the judge has summarized the case, and the jury has been told to begin deciding the result, the jury is not allowed to go home at the end of each day. At this time, they are sequestered, which means that they are not allowed to go home until after they have given their decision to the judge in court.

Interaction with Jury Members

It is possible that you will see a member of the jury outside the courtroom. Victims should never discuss their case with jury members under any circumstances. If you do discuss the case by accident or you think that a jury member might have accidentally overheard something you said, you must tell Crown counsel immediately.

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