Jurors play a critical role in justice system

Published 7:46 am Thursday, April 13, 2017

Albert Lea Tribune

This week and last at the Tribune, we have been busy covering the jury trial of David Michael Easter, who is facing a charge of second-degree murder in the shooting death of rural Freeborn County man Spencer Brown last August. Easter from the beginning has claimed self-defense in the case, and it will be up to the jury to ultimately decide the verdict.

Hearing the testimony that has come during the trial has reminded us of the critical role a jury plays in cases like this and others. The Constitution of the United States and the state of Minnesota guarantees defendants in criminal cases the right to a trial by jury. It has been an important part of this country’s justice system.

Email newsletter signup

Each year, the Minnesota Judicial Branch obtains names from a list of licensed drivers, state identification card holders and registered voters residing in each county and compiles that information into a list. From that list, people are randomly selected by a computer to serve.

Jurors must be at least 18 years old, be able to communicate in English and be a resident of the county where they are serving. They must also be physically and mentally capable of serving and have had their civil rights restored if they have been convicted of a felony.

After they are randomly selected, they go through an interview process, known as voir dire, to determine whether they are qualified to serve. The purpose of this process is to determine which jurors can be fair and impartial. Potential jurors who know the defendant, witnesses or lawyers in the case are often dismissed.

We appreciate those people who serve as jurors and for their time spent in cases. These people are often setting aside their jobs and family lives for sometimes several weeks until the trial they are serving on is completed.

They are paid $20 for each day they report to the courthouse, plus roundtrip mileage from their homes to the courthouse at a rate of 54 cents per mile. Jurors who are normally caring for their children or a disabled family member during the day can be reimbursed for daycare expenses up to a certain amount as well. For many, the compensation received is a sacrifice from normal wages earned at a job.

Next time you get a summons to jury duty, remember the responsibility these positions have. Though it may appear to be a thankless job given the financial compensation, it is vital no matter what the outcome for the country’s justice system.