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Massachusetts Law About Juries and Jury Service

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Jury Information. Everything you need to know if you've been summonsed for jury service, as well as an overview of the Massachusetts jury system.

Massachusetts Laws

Mass. Constitution Decl. of Rights Art. XII Right to trial by jury in criminal matters.

Mass. Constitution Decl. of Rights Art. XV Right to trial by jury in civil matters.

MGL c. 234A Office of Jury Commissioner

Massachusetts Regulations

Office of Jury Commissioner Regulations

Federal Laws

28 USC 1861 – 1878 Juries; trial by jury

Jury Instructions

State

Criminal Model Jury Instructions, 2013 edition, Mass. District Court. Includes all model district court criminal jury instructions in PDF and WordPerfect formats. Now also available as an ebook!

Criminal Jury Instructions on Joint Venture, See "Appendix" in Commonwealth v. Zannetti, 454 Mass. 449 (2009) on p. 471.

Criminal Jury Instructions on Criminal Responsibility in Cases of Mental Illness and Voluntary Intoxication. See "Appendix" in Commonwealth v. DiPadova, 460 Mass. 424 (2011). Revises the 2010 "Barry Instruction."

Model Jury Instructions on Homicide, Mass. Supreme Judicial Court, 2013. 94-page document provides jury instructions for all forms of homicide. See also: Chalk: Requirements of Proof for Homicide.

Federal

Draft Civil Jury Instructions, Judge D. Brock Hornby. "These instructions will be in three parts: first, general rules that define and control your duties as jurors; second, the rules of law that you must apply in deciding whether the plaintiff has proven [his/her] case; and third, some rules for your deliberations."

Pattern Criminal Jury Instructions for the District Courts of the First Circuit, Judge D. Brock Hornby, 2011.

Selected Cases

Butler v. Perry, 240 US 328 (1916). "the Thirteenth Amendment ... was adopted with reference to conditions existing since the foundation of our Government, and the term involuntary servitude was intended to cover those forms of compulsory labor akin to African slavery ... It introduced no novel doctrine with respect of services always treated as exceptional, and certainly was not intended to interdict enforcement of those duties which individuals owe to the State, such as services in the army, militia, on the jury, etc."

Comm. v. Lassiter, 80 Mass. App. Ct. 125 (2011). Held that a jury cannot be called back to re-deliberate once a verdict has been accepted.

Comm. v. Shea, 460 Mass. 163 (2011). Provides a short history of allowing juror note taking, while strongly encouraging note taking to be routinely permitted. "We believe that an accurate memory of detailed facts is as important in a court room as it in a lecture hall or board room, where notetaking is almost invariably permitted. We refer the question whether we should revise our rules to require that jurors be permitted to take notes during some or all trials, or whether we should continue to leave such decisions to the discretion of the judge, to this court's standing advisory committees on the rules of criminal and civil procedure."

Comm. v. Werner, 81 Mass. App. Ct. 689 (2012). Juror use of social media. "More explicit instructions about the use of social media and the Internet may.. be required. Instructions not to talk or chat about the case should expressly extend to electronic communications and social media, and discussions about the use of the Internet should expressly go beyond prohibitions on research. Jurors should not research, describe, or discuss the case on- or off-line. Jurors must separate and insulate their jury service from their digital lives."

Web Sources

Brief Description of the Mass. Jury System. Office of Jury Commissioner.

Court Warns on Jurors' Web Use, Boston.com, May 14, 2012. Explains the holding in Comm. v. Werner, above, in which "the Massachusetts Appeals Court has called on judges to better police jurors’ use of the Internet to make sure they do not discuss cases online, and thus risk a mistrial."

Trial Juror Service, Office of Jury Commissioner.

Trial Juror's Handbook, Office of Jury Commissioner.

Grand Juror Service, Office of Jury Commissioner.

Grand Juror's Handbook, Office of Jury Commissioner.

Federal Jury Duty Information, US District Court, District of Massachusetts.

Massachusetts Trial Court Policy on Juror Use of Personal Communication Devices, Mass. Trial Court, 2010. "This policy relates to the use of cell phones and other personal communication devices by jurors in courthouses and courtrooms."

Wood, Pamela J., "Vantage Point: Massachusetts' Leadership Role in the American Jury System," 55 Boston Bar Journal 13 (Spring 2011).

Print Sources

Francis, Philip. How to serve on a jury, Oceana, 1979.

Jury Talk (DVD), LexisNexis, 2006.

Heuer, Larry and Steven Penrod, "Increasing juror participation in trials through note taking and question asking," 79 Judicature 256 (1996). Also available to library cardholders on Heinonline.