Everybody in the pool — Lake County jury pool that is
Jury Assembly room at the Lake County Courthouse located in Waukegan. | Thomas Delany Jr.~ Sun-Times Media
Petit Jury: Twelve people sworn to try a criminal or civil case, hears evidence and reaches a verdict (usually 12 people, with alternates; sometimes a petit jury can be six people).
Grand jury: Sixteen people sworn to hear evidence presented by the prosecution and determines if probable cause exists that a crime has been committed; grand jurors in Lake County serve for four months.
Updated: October 7, 2012 6:38AM
Planning is underway for a new juror orientation DVD for the thousands of Lake County residents who are summoned for jury duty, according to Circuit Judge Victoria Rossetti, chief of the jury commission.
The current, 12-minute video is about 15 years old, she said. Daniel Travanti of Lake Forest, who played Capt. Frank Furillo on the 1980 cop TV show “Hill Street Blues,” guides viewers through the jury process. The DVD provides a “thumbnail sketch” of what to expect, Rossetti said.
The new video is in its early planning stages, she said.
“Every Monday, we bring in jurors,” Rossetti said. “There are so many TV shows about the law. (Potential jurors) think things happen quickly, but nothing (in reality) happens in a half hour or an hour slot.”
A judge is in the jury commission room to explain what happens in a trial to potential jurors, Rossetti said. Some trials can take one day and some the whole week.
Ignoring a summons can result in a contempt of court citation. The misdemeanor offense is punishable up to six months in jail or a fine, Rossetti said.
A randomized computer program selects potential jurors from registered voters, driver’s licence holders, state ID cards and people registered with a state disabled person card.
To qualify for jury duty, a person must be a U.S. citizen, a Lake County resident and at least 18 years old. These criteria are evaluated after a person responds to a jury summons.
Potential jurors are brought to a courtroom and asked a variety of questions to determine if they will be selected to serve on a jury. Questions can include general background information, whether or not there are attorneys or law enforcement officials in the family, and if they have any legal cases pending, Rossetti said.
“We’re not trying to pry. The questions are to find fair and impartial jurors,” the judge said.
More than 80 percent of people surveyed after serving on a jury trial thought their experience was worthwhile, educational and affirmed that they believed in the system, she said.
Jurors play a vital role in the legal process, Chief Judge Fred Foreman said.
“Doing a jury sometimes is like putting on a week-long play. All the actors and all the extras have to show up,” Foreman said.
Special arrangements can be made, Rossetti said. Five hearing-impaired jurors have used real-time captioning. The court also has sign language interpreters. Deferrals up to six months may also be arranged if jurors have a scheduling conflict.
Nobody is exempt from a jury summons. Associate Judge Joseph Waldeck said he received an “invitation” to serve on a Lake County jury this year. Waldeck is assigned to the criminal division and had a scheduling conflict, so he deferred his jury duty to November.
He said he was surprised to get the jury summons, but that he was looking forward to it.
“When you really think about it, what a great system of justice we have that you get 12 individuals from all walks of life — a doctor or teacher, a bricklayer, a judge — and your vote is the same as everyone else’s,” Waldeck said.