Juror’s Bill of Rights
Jurors have rights. In 1999, the Florida Legislature passed the Juror’s Bill of Rights, now codified as Fla. Stat. 40.50. Eight years later, in October of 2007, the Supreme Court of Florida adopted some of these “rights” and incorporated them into the Florida Rules of Procedure and the Florida Standard Jury Instructions (effective January 1, 2008). See – In Re: Amendments to Rules (Fla 2007).
Some of the “rights” afforded jurors in a jury trial are as follows:
NOTE-TAKING: The 1999 Florida Statutes state that in any civil trial likely to last more than five days, jurors have the right to take notes and keep their notes confidential. The Supreme Court extended this right (effective Jan 1 2008) to jurors in criminal cases as well as civil cases, and removed the requirement that the trial last more than five days. See Florida Standard Jury Instruction Civil 1.8, and Florida Standard Jury Instruction Criminal 1.6.
QUESTIONS BY JURORS: The 1999 Florida Statutes state that jurors (presumably only in civil cases) also have the right to submit written questions to witnesses and the court. The questions are reviewed by the court, and counsel has the opportunity to object to the question if it calls for inadmissible evidence. The Supreme Court again extended this right into criminal trials (effective Jan 1 2008). However, it appears that a juror’s right to ask questions is mandatory in civil trials, but only discretionary in criminal trials. Florida Rule of Civil Procedure 1.452 states the Court “shall” permit jurors to submit questions, whereas Florida Rule of Criminal Procedure 3.371 states that “at the discretition of the presiding trial judge”, jurors “may” be allowed to submit questions. See also Florida Standard Jury Instruction Civil 1.13 and Florida Standard Jury Instruction Criminal 2.13.
JUROR NOTEBOOKS: The Supreme Court approved the use of “juror notebooks” in civil trials (effective Jan 1 2008 – in the discretion of the court). This is a procedure whereby “the court may authorize documents and exhibits to be included in notebooks for use by jurors during trial to aid them in performing their duties.” See Florida Rule of Civil Procedure 1.455. There is no counterpart to this rule in the criminal rules.
COPIES OF JURY INSTRUCTIONS: Effective January 1, 2008, the court shall provide each juror in a civil trial with a written set of jury instructions for his or her use during deliberations. See Florida Rule of Civil Procedure 1.470 and Florida Standard Jury Instruction Civil (Note On Use) 2.1. There is no counterpart to this rule in the criminal rules.