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0718 Serving on a Jury

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Welcome to English as a Second Language Podcast number 718: Serving on a Jury.

This is English as a Second Language Podcast episode 718. I’m your host, Dr. Jeff McQuillan, coming to you from the Center for Educational Development in beautiful Los Angeles, California.

Our website is eslpod.com. You know what to do. Go there, download a Learning Guide, and support ESL Podcast.

This episode is a dialogue between Samantha and Jinho; it is talking about being on a “jury,” a group of people in a courtroom who decide whether someone is innocent or guilty. Let’s get started.

[start of dialogue]

Samantha: How was your first day on a jury?

Jinho: It was okay. The judge swore us in and then we listened to the beginning of the prosecutor’s case. Two witnesses testified.

Samantha: That sounds exciting! I’d love to be on a jury. Why didn’t they sequester you? That’s what they do on TV.

Jinho: We didn’t need to be sequestered. This isn’t a high-profile case. Hey, guess what? I was selected as foreman.

Samantha: Wow, that’s a lot of responsibility.

Jinho: It’s no big deal. I think I was selected because nobody else wanted the job.

Samantha: What’ll happen tomorrow?

Jinho: We’ll hear the rest of the prosecutor’s case and then the defense attorney will put on her case. I’m sure the entire thing will be over in three or four days.

Samantha: Were there any interesting exhibits? Will the defendant take the stand?

Jinho: No, no interesting exhibits so far, and I’m not sure if the defendant will take the stand.

Samantha: I wish I were in your place. I’d love to put a criminal behind bars.

Jinho: You’re supposed to be impartial when you’re on a jury, remember?

Samantha: Oh sure, I’d only convict the guilty defendants – just like on TV!

[end of dialogue]

Samantha begins by asking Jinho, “How was your first day on a jury?” A “jury” (jury) is a group of people in a courtroom, in a legal case, who decide whether someone is innocent or guilty – whether they did the crime or did not do the crime. Juries can also be used to decide whether one person has wronged another person and has to pay them money. Juries can be used for both criminal cases, cases involving someone breaking the law, as well as civil cases, cases involving people who have damaged or done damage to someone else, and that person is trying to get money back from them.

Jinho says, “It was okay. The judge swore us in and then we listened to the beginning of the prosecutor’s case.” The “judge” is the man or woman who is sort of the boss of the courtroom. When you go to a court, there’ll be one person who is in charge, who decides who talks or who can say what. This person sometimes makes a decision about whether someone is guilty or innocent in some courtrooms. But for most cases, there is a group of citizens, what we call the “jury,” typically 12 of them, who make the decision.

So, the judge swore the jury in. “Swore” is the past tense of the verb “swear.” “To swear in (someone)” or “to swear (someone) in” means to make them repeat a statement, a sentence or two, where they promise to do something. For a jury, they promise to listen to the facts of the case and make an honest determination – an honest decision about whether the person is guilty or not. For someone who is a “witness,” someone who is going to be giving evidence in the case, that person is sworn in to tell the truth. The traditional phrase is “To tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth,” that is, only the truth.

So, the judge swore in the jury, “and then we listened to the beginning of the prosecutors case,” Jinho says. I should mention that “swear” has a couple of other meanings in English as well, some important meanings; take a look at the Learning Guide for those. The “prosecutor” is the lawyer – the attorney – who works for the government, and his or her job is to show that this person is guilty. The person works for and defends person who is being accused of a crime – that is, the person that they are trying to put in jail, that attorney is called the “defense” attorney. So you have a defense attorney and a prosecuting attorney in a criminal case. In a civil case, you have a “plaintiff,” someone who’s making a complaint, and a “defendant,” someone who is defending themselves against this complaint. Well, in this case we have a criminal case, so there’s a prosecutor from the government. After they were sworn in, Jinho says that two witnesses testified. A “witness” is a person who has some knowledge about the event, or in this case the crime. “To testify” means to formally make a statement, to go in front of the judge and the jury and to say what you think happened or what you know about a certain case.

Samantha says, “That sounds exciting! I’d love to be on a jury. Why didn’t they sequester you? That’s what they do on TV.” “To sequester” (sequester) means to isolate. Sometimes when there’s a very important case the judge doesn’t want the jury to become influenced by the newspapers and other people talking about the case, so they will sequester the jury. They’ll put them in a hotel, take away their televisions, not allow them to read the newspaper until trial is over. This is not a common procedure; it’s not done very often. It’s only done for very famous cases; cases, that is, that are getting a lot of publicity, a lot of newspaper coverage. Here in Los Angeles, the O.J. Simpson murder trial 20 years ago was a case where they had a sequestered jury. Samantha says, “That’s what they do on TV,” meaning well, that’s what television shows show happening. But of course, that’s not reality.

Jinho says, “We didn’t need to be sequestered. This isn’t a high-profile case.” Something that is “high-profile” is something that is receiving a lot of attention because it is important or involves someone famous. Celebrities – famous people here in Los Angeles are always getting into trouble with drugs or alcohol, and sometimes they get caught by the police and they have to go to court. That would be an example of a high-profile case, something that everyone is paying attention to.

Jinho says, “Hey, guess what? I was selected as foreman.” The “foreman” (foreman) is the leader of the jury. He or she is the person who is in charge of the jury, helping the jury make a decision. They still just have one vote, but the jury selects a leader so that you can have one person leading the discussion during the time when they discuss whether the person is guilty or innocent after the end of all the testimony – of all the evidence. That period is called “deliberations,” when they sit around in a group by themselves to decide whether the person was guilty or not.

Samantha says, “Wow, that’s a lot of responsibility.” Jinho says, “It’s no big deal,” meaning it wasn’t that important. “I think I was selected because nobody else wanted the job,” that is, no one else wanted to be the foreman. Samantha says, “What happens tomorrow?” Jinho says, “We’ll hear the rest of the prosecutor’s case and then the defense attorney will put on her case.” Remember, the defense attorney is the person defending the person who is being accused of the crime. Jinho says, “I’m sure the entire thing will be over in three or four days.”

Samantha says, “Were there any interesting exhibits?” “Exhibits” in a courtroom case are objects or documents related to the case that are brought in and shown to the jury and discussed by the attorneys. “Exhibit” has a couple of different meanings in English; take a look at our Learning Guide for some more of those. Samantha asks if there were any interesting exhibits; she then asks, “Will the defendant take the stand?” The “defendant” is the person who is being defended by the defense attorney, the person being accused of the crime that the government wants to put in jail. “To take the stand” means to stand up – actually to go into a chair and sit and give an official statement about what happened. You can take the stand as a witness, you know something and so you go and you tell what you know. Or, you could take the stand as the defendant, the person who is being accused of the crime.

Jinho says, “No, no interesting exhibits so far, and I’m not sure if the defendant will take the stand.” Samantha says, “I wish I were in your place. I’d love to put a criminal behind bars.” “To put a criminal behind bars” means to punish someone who has broken the law by putting them in jail. Of course, that’s what a jury does; if they decide the person is guilty they are putting him or her behind bars, that is, in a prison – in a jail. Jinho says, “You’re supposed to be impartial when you’re on a jury, remember?” “To be impartial” (impartial) means to be able to listen to what other people say and make a fair decision, not one based on your own ideas, not biased. We might also say to make an “objective” decision. Samantha says, “Oh sure, I’d only convict the guilty defendants – just like on TV!” “To convict” means to find someone guilty in a courtroom trial. “To be guilty,” as you probably know, is the opposite of “innocent,” meaning you’ve done something wrong, you’ve broken the law. On the television shows we watch, of course, only the bad people – the guilty people are convicted, are put behind bars. In the real world, it’s not quite that easy!

Now let’s listen to the dialogue, this time at a normal speed.

[start of dialogue]

Samantha: How was your first day on a jury?

Jinho: It was okay. The judge swore us in and then we listened to the beginning of the prosecutor’s case. Two witnesses testified.

Samantha: That sounds exciting! I’d love to be on a jury. Why didn’t they sequester you? That’s what they do on TV.

Jinho: We didn’t need to be sequestered. This isn’t a high-profile case. Hey, guess what? I was selected as foreman.

Samantha: Wow, that’s a lot of responsibility.

Jinho: It’s no big deal. I think I was selected because nobody else wanted the job.

Samantha: What’ll happen tomorrow?

Jinho: We’ll hear the rest of the prosecutor’s case and then the defense attorney will put on her case. I’m sure the entire thing will be over in three or four days.

Samantha: Were there any interesting exhibits? Will the defendant take the stand?

Jinho: No, no interesting exhibits so far, and I’m not sure if the defendant will take the stand.

Samantha: I wish I were in your place. I’d love to put a criminal behind bars.

Jinho: You’re supposed to be impartial when you’re on a jury, remember?

Samantha: Oh sure, I’d only convict the guilty defendants – just like on TV!

[end of dialogue]

I’m not impartial when it comes to scriptwriters; I really like our scriptwriter, Dr. Lucy Tse. Thanks Lucy.

From Los Angeles, California, I’m Jeff McQuillan. Thank you for listening. Come back and listen to us again here on ESL Podcast.

English as a Second Language Podcast is written and produced by Dr. Lucy Tse, hosted by Dr. Jeff McQuillan, copyright 2011 by the Center for Educational Development.

Glossary
jury – a group of people who listen to a legal case and reach an agreement on whether someone is guilty (did the crime) or innocent (did not do the crime)

* The attorney hopes to have a jury with mostly women, because he thinks they’ll be more sympathetic toward his client.

judge – a person whose job is to maintain order in the courtroom during a legal case and decide what punishment is appropriate if the defendant is found guilty

* The judge sentenced the murderer to life in prison.

to swear (someone) in – to make someone repeat a statement in a courtroom, promising to tell the truth before he or she speaks in a legal case

* Molly spoke for 40 minutes before anyone realized that they had forgotten to swear her in. Then she had to do it all over again.

prosecutor – an attorney who is trying to show that the defendant is guilty, arguing against the defense attorney

* The prosecutor did a very good job of proving the defendant was lying.

case – lawsuit; a legal argument; a legal accusation and defense that will be resolved in court

* Pierre is involved in a case against the state regarding his property taxes.

witness – a person who has knowledge of another person or event and goes into a court to share that information

* Are there any witnesses who can confirm you were at the conference that day?

to testify – to formally and officially make a statement about what is true, especially in court

* Are you willing to testify about what you saw that day?

to sequester – to isolate; to prevent someone or a group of people from having contact with other people, newspapers, magazines, television, and radio

* The jury members were angry that they were sequestered for almost two weeks.

high-profile – receiving a lot of attention because something is very important or shocking

* Every journalist dreams of interviewing high-profile celebrities and politicians.

foreman – the leader and spokesperson of a jury, who counts the jury members’ votes and announces their decision in the court

* Everyone in the courtroom was surprised when the foreman said, “We find the defendant not guilty.”

defense attorney – a lawyer who is trying to show that the defendant is not guilty, arguing against the prosecutor

* Ulysses has been charged with auto theft, so now he needs to find a really good defense attorney.

exhibit – an object shown in a courtroom because it seems to show the defendant is guilty or not guilty

* Exhibits for that case included the defendant’s blood-stained clothes and the murder weapon.

defendant – a person who has been accused of something and is trying to prove his or her innocence in the court

* The defendant claims she isn’t guilty, but I don’t believe her.

to take the stand – to officially speak in a courtroom during a trial, either as a witness or a defendant, when one has promised to tell the truth

* A real friend would never ask you to take the stand and lie to protect him.

to put a criminal behind bars – to punish someone who has broken the law by putting him or her in jail

* The new police chief has promised to fight corruption within the police force and to put all criminals behind bars.

impartial – not biased; objective; able to listen to what others say and analyze the facts in order to make a fair decision, without basing it on the personal opinions one already has

* Teachers need to be impartial when they grade their students’ exams.

to convict – for someone to be found guilty in a courtroom trial

* Michelle was charged with tax evasion, but she was never convicted.

guilty – not innocent; having broken the law; having done something wrong

* After hours of questioning by police, the young man admitted that he was guilty of the robbery.

Comprehension Questions
1. What does Jihno mean when he says, “The judge swore us in”?
a) The judge made them make an oral promise.
b) The judge yelled and swore at them.
c) The judge gave them special robes to wear.

2. What happens when a jury is sequestered?
a) The jury members are not allowed to interact with other people.
b) The jury members have to pay a fine.
c) The jury members receive a stipend for their work.

Answers at bottom.

What Else Does It Mean?
to swear (one) in

The phrase “to swear (one) in,” in this podcast, means to make someone repeat a statement in a courtroom, promising to tell the truth before he or she speaks in a legal case: “Once the judge swears you in, you have to tell the truth.” The phrase “to swear at (someone)” means to curse or to say very bad words to insult or offend another person: “What are the bank tellers supposed to do when angry customers start swearing at them?” The verb “to swear” also means to promise to do something: “I swear I’ll help you next weekend. I just can’t do it right now.” Finally, the phrase “I could have sworn” is used when one thought one was correct, but just found out that one was wrong: “I could have sworn I knew his phone number, but I was wrong.”

exhibit

In this podcast, the word “exhibit” means an object shown in a courtroom because it seems to show the defendant is guilty or not guilty: “In that trial, most of the exhibits were photographs of the crime scene.” In a museum, an “exhibit” or an “exhibition” is a thing or a group of related things that are displayed for viewing: “Next month we’re going to see a new exhibit on modern art.” As a verb, “to exhibit,” means to put art or other objects on display: “The National Geographic Museum had a fascinating exhibit on the climbers of Mount Everest.” The verb “to exhibit” can also mean to show some feeling or characteristic: “Do you think women can exhibit strong emotions but still be perceived as professionals?”

Culture Note
Getting a Summons for Jury Duty

“Jury duty” (the process of serving on a jury) is a responsibility for all U.S. citizens – some people argue it is a “privilege” (an honor) as well. Anyone can be selected for jury duty at any time, but they must be more than 18 years old, “proficient” (able to speak) in English, and not convicted of a “felony” (serious crime).

First, an individual receives a “summons” (a written document requesting one’s presence at a future date and time). The letter states which court to go to and when. Some people can “excuse themselves” (ask not to do something) from jury duty if they “fall into” (are in) certain categories. For example, people are excused from jury duty if they are over 70 years old, if they work in “public safety” (fire and police departments), if they served on another jury recently, if they are a woman who are is “breastfeeding” (giving human milk to a baby), and if they can “demonstrate” (prove; show) “undue” (unreasonable) hardship or extreme inconvenience.

After arriving at the courthouse, the potential jurors fill out a “questionnaire” (a written document with many questions) about their background, opinions, and beliefs. Then, they are called into the courtroom one at a time or in small groups, where the prosecutor and the defense attorney ask them questions. The attorneys may “dismiss” (choose not to have or use) individuals for certain reasons, such as a “bias” (pre-existing belief) related to the case, or perhaps opposition to the “death penalty” (punishment by death for serious crimes).

Once the jurors have been selected, they are told when to come back to the courthouse for the trial, but they never know how long the trial will last. Some trials last only a few hours or days; others can last for weeks.

Comprehension Answers
1 - a

2 - a