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Old 06-15-2001, 01:56 PM
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What's the reason? It seems pretty silly to me that they can't. I'm sure there is some serious legal theory going on here, but I don't have a clue as what it could be.
Old 06-15-2001, 02:37 PM
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They can't?
I did.
I even got permission from the judge to ask a question of a witness.
Humility and modesty are my two best traits
Old 06-15-2001, 02:38 PM
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Originally posted by Biggirl
What's the reason? It seems pretty silly to me that they can't. I'm sure there is some serious legal theory going on here, but I don't have a clue as what it could be.
It's not a universal rule. Some jurisdictions permit jurors to take notes.

Where they don't, the basic theory is that jurors are supposed to rely on their perception of the evidence, and not notes. If one juror has taken meticulous notes, for example, and others have not, the juror with the good notes may inappropriately dominate deliberations with his or her version of how things happened, and the other jurors may accord undue weight to that version of the testimony. Without notes, so goes the thinking, and everyone's even.

- Rick
Old 06-15-2001, 02:39 PM
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Around here, they allow jurors to take notes, but the jurors are not allowed to use them during deliberations. The idea behind this is that a jury should deliberate based on their recollections of the evidence and whatever tangible evidence was admitted. If the jurors disagree as to what the testimony on a particular point was, they must inform the court of the disagreement in order to get a written answer as to what the actual testimony was. If the jurors were allowed their notes, the worry is that a juror's note, which isn't evidence, would be given greater weight during deliberations than evidence would be given.
The idea seems to be that a jury must decide a case based on the evidence presented, not a person's notes of the evidence presented.
Old 06-15-2001, 03:31 PM
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Also, some judges worry that jurors will get caught up in the notetaking process and will not give the same kind of attention to the testimony that they would if they were not simultaneously looking at their laps.
Old 06-15-2001, 03:53 PM
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Very interesting thread! I'd always wondered about this.

I'd make a rotten juror if I wasn't allowed to take notes--I'm a terrible aural learner, and I do much better if I see things written down. If the jurors had access to a transcript during deliberations, that might help. Do they? I remember from L&A jurors asking for part of the transcript to be read back, and it had to be done in court with the lawyers present and everything. Is that standard practice?
Old 06-15-2001, 05:17 PM
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ISTR reading somewhere that the thinking behind the original prohibition against jurors taking notes was that illiterate jurors would be unfairly left out of deliberations.
Old 06-15-2001, 07:22 PM
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Think how much easier it would be to not pay attention when you have something to doodle with.
Old 06-15-2001, 07:48 PM
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The SOP in Los Angeles County is that you can take notes during the trial, but you have to leave the notes behind when you leave the courtroom. You can only take the notes with you when it is time to deliberate.

During jury instructions, you are told that the jurors who took notes don't necessarily remember anything better than the ones who didn't.

At the end of the trial, the notes are kept by the bailiffs and I presume that they are destroyed.

The courts here give you a pencil! It's such a nice gift for being a good citizen.
Old 06-15-2001, 08:34 PM
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That was my experience also, in Alaska. So that's two jurisdictions, at least.

IIRC, federal grand juries (which are quite different from trial juries) may also use notes. These are also locked up outside of deliberations, and stored when the term is over (though no one knows exactly why). Someone may want to correct my impression; I received the instructions months ago, but have not served yet, as I am an alternate.
Old 06-15-2001, 08:43 PM
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I start jury duty here in NYC on Monday. I've been told that you can take notes, but it is discouraged. I've served only one time before and I didn't get picked once.

Since we're here discussing jury duty. . . why is it that I didn't get picked? I was in the pool for 7 different trials and was released in the first "elimination round" each time.
Old 06-15-2001, 09:47 PM
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Did you actually make it to the voir dire stage? That's the part where the lawyers actually start to ask you questions. I only made it that far once - and since it was a robbery trial, and I've been robbed, I was eliminated. (My being a lawyer by itself wouldn't cut it anymore.)

If you actually made it to voir dire seven times (a frightening thought!), but weren't picked - well, there are any number of possible reasons. Lawyers have all kinds of theories on jury selection, which since I'm not a litigator I don't know very much about. But it might have to do with demographics - someone can be "too educated," for example. Race isn't supposed to play a role anymore - there are a bunch of Supreme Court cases on point - but I'm sure it still happens.

BTW, if you you haven't been called in a while, the system is MUCH easier now. (I'm assuming you're being called for state court, not Federal. Very few people get called for Federal.) I did my time last year under the new rules, and I only had to show up for two days. I was in three pools, the one above where I made it to voir dire and two where I was dismissed even earlier - one of them because the parties suddenly agreed to have a bench trial.
Old 06-15-2001, 09:52 PM
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When I was on jury duty, we were given pencils and notepads to take notes.

Biggirl, you probably have a job or a degree in a field--or have had some kind of experience--that lawyers prefer to screen out. Either that, or it was just a fluke.
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Old 06-15-2001, 10:11 PM
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Kings County (Brooklyn) court.
It was a while ago, but let me see if I remember correctly.
One civil case about an amputee with diabetes. -- my grandmother had recently had her own leg below the knee removed. I was out.

Civil again, a back injury. They gathered us all into a room. The first guy they interviewed started ranting about how a million dollars wasn't enough to compensate a person who couldn't work because of a back injury. Everyone in the room was disqualified for that one.

Criminal court-- a mugging 3 blocks away from my house.

Criminal-- A drug case with a racial mix of defendants.

Criminal-- Murder. I am against the death penalty. I remember being asked about this and I also remember saying that (at the time) there was no death penalty in NY. I think this had something to do with it.

All the other cases where also criminal, but I didn't make it to the point where the lawyers asked me questions. At the time I was a customer service rep. Not an occupation that would automatically turn a lawyer off, I think.
Old 06-16-2001, 01:25 AM
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Well, I'm not a trial lawyer, but I can see why you would have been knocked out for all but one of these:

Amputation case - one of the lawyers probably assumed you would identify too much with the amputee, because of your grandmother's experience;

Back injury - you were all disqualified because of the guy spouting off;

Mugging - it was too close to home (literally) - accused's lawyer probably thought that you would want to convict to protect yourself and your neighbours;

Murder - expressing opposition to the death penalty, coupled with ignorance about the state of the law would probably be enough.

As for the racially mixed case, I'm simply not familiar enough with trial strategies and community attitudes to comment.
Old 06-16-2001, 01:49 AM
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I Took Notes

I served as a juror in a murder trial in Superior Court in the SF Bay Area a few years ago. I took copious notes during the trial, as did several other jurors. There was no objection by the Court to this note-taking. During the deliberations I (and other jurors) referred to these notes.

I see nothing wrong with the practice of note-taking by jurors. Of course, these notes are for the juror's use and jury deliberations only. I think that the notes should be subject to certain rules regarding confidential and privileged information. I made a point of burning my 14 pages of handwritten notes after we reached our verdict.
Old 06-16-2001, 09:11 AM
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Originally posted by Northern Piper

Murder - expressing opposition to the death penalty, coupled with ignorance about the state of the law would probably be enough.

Just for clarification's sake. At the time there was no death penalty in NYS.

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