Jury Service - The important and demanding role of the juror.

As the 12 ordinary men and women are sworn in at the trial of Vincent Tabak, accused of murdering Miss Yeates, they face four weeks of hearing some harrowing accounts of events and reaching a verdict at the end.

A juror's role can never be easy but in the case of the trial of Vincent Tabak, accused of murdering 25 year old Joanna Yeates, it is going to be a demanding experience. Mr Justice Field took the first two days to select the six men and six women who will sit on the jury. The case, at Bristol Crown Court, is estimated to last four weeks. Mr Justice Field has warned jurors against reading any background material related to the case. The jurors were told that the case would commence on the Monday following their selection and the judge reminded the court that they should "Put the case entirely out of your mind until Monday morning when the trial proceeds."

Now that the trial has started the jurors will not be able do discuss the case with anyone other than the other members of the jury in the jury deliberation room. These discussions that go on in the jury deliberation room must remain in the deliberation room, that is to say they must not be discussed with other people even after the trial. To do so would mean that the juror would be in 'contempt of court', similarly it is contempt of court to tweet a comment on twitter or post a comment on facebook both during the time of the trial and after. The jurors will be able to speak to the court staff if they are distressed by some of the things they see and hear, the court staff will be able to give them advice. Providing they do not discuss the detail of the trial they will be able to talk about their feelings with their family and friends and some may find it helpful to talk to the Samaritans who will have the experience to help them get over some of the things they have to deal with during the trial.

The importance of the role of the jurors in this case and every case and the demands they will have to face over the next few weeks can not be under-estimated. Already they have heard that Miss Yeates must have put up a desperate fight for her life as Tabak allegedly strangled her with his hands. They have heard the description being built up of a cold and calculated killer and of the bruises and wounds on her body including a broken nose. They have seen pictures of her body as it was found on Christmas Day, something the parents of Miss Yeates could not bear to see. On the second day of the trial the jurors were asked to retrace her footsteps on the evening of the murder and visited her flat, which remained frozen in time. The jury were escorted to the various locations by the police and were transported by bus.

Now they are listening to witness statements and hearing from people who may have heard her final screams that night but put the noise down to partying youngsters.

Tabak has pleaded guilty of manslaughter but it will be up to the jurors to decide if he had intended to kill her or cause really serious harm. These are ordinary men and women who have been chosen and they must listen to all the evidence before they can make a decision on the verdict. They will be advised at the end of the trial what they should consider and the questions they need to find the answers to in order to come to a decision. The person selected as the spokesperson or foreman will deliver the verdict and say whether the jury thinks he is guilty or not guilty. If all 12 members of the jury agree it will be a unanimous verdict. If they are unable to agree on the verdict after deliberating for two or three days the judge might accept a majority verdict, that is one that 10 or 11 of the 12 jurors agree on. Should the jury be split and unable to change their minds there will be no verdict and the jury is said to be a hung jury.







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