A jury is a group of impartial people who listen to the evidence in a court case and render a verdict. In Saskatchewan, jury trials are only held at Court of Queen's Bench.
In a criminal trial, 12 jurors hear the evidence and decide if the accused person is guilty or not guilty. Before the jury makes their decision, the judge explains the law that they must consider when deciding the verdict. If there is a guilty verdict, the judge will decide what the sentence should be. Criminal jury trials are only held for indictable offences (more serious offences).
In a civil trial, six jurors hear the evidence and determine the issues involved. In civil cases, jury trials are held when one of the parties requests and pays for a jury.
The Jury Regulations, 2000 set out the fees paid to jurors. In criminal matters, jurors are paid $80.00 for each day or part of a day that they sit. In civil matters, jurors are paid $15.00 for each day or part of day that they attend court for the jury selection process. Once a person is sworn in as a juror, they receive $25.00 for each day they sit on the jury.
The Jury Selection Process
First Step: The Summons
When the court needs to assemble a jury, the Sheriff in that judicial district asks the Ministry of Health to provide the required number of names. The names are selected randomly, by computer, from health records. Anyone who is over 18 years of age with a health services number and who lives within that judicial district may be called for jury service. The name and address of the potential juror is the only information provided to the Sheriff.
A document called a "summons" is prepared for each potential juror. It tells the person when to attend court and contains information about the selection process. Once the summons is received, it must be completed and returned within 5 days of receiving it. Failure to return this information and failure to attend court can result in a serious fine.
Second Step: The Judge and Lawyers
People who receive a summons in the mail must attend court for a process called jury selection.
The selection of the jury takes place before the start of the trial. The presiding judge describes the nature of the case to be tried and then makes certain inquires of the jury panel to determine if they are able to act as impartial judges of the facts. The names of the prospective jurors are written on cards that are placed in a box. The court clerk draws the cards from the box and those prospective jurors are asked to come forward.
The lawyers for the parties at trial have the right to challenge prospective jurors without giving any reasons. If this occurs, that person is then asked to return to the body of the courtroom. If the prospective juror is not challenged, he or she is then sworn as a juror. This process continues until all the jurors are chosen. Those members of the jury panel who are not selected are excused from further attendance. Those who are selected will serve as judges of the facts at the trial.
Eligibility for Jury Service
Any Saskatchewan resident who is over the age of 18 and is a Canadian citizen may serve as a juror. Health records are considered to be the best database available in this province. Every person in Saskatchewan has a health services number which has been randomly assigned by computer. This ensures that everyone is given an equal chance at being called for jury service.
However, some people are excluded from being jurors because of the work they do or their legal status. This includes:
- people who are now, or in the past have been, judges, justices of the peace, coroners, lawyers or police officers;
- employees of the Ministry of Justice (Saskatchewan), the Department of Justice (Canada) or the Department of the Solicitor General (Canada);
- people who work in the administration of justice;
- a reeve, councillor or mayor;
- a member of a board of education, the Counseil Scolaire Fransaskois, a board of trustees of a school district or a counseil d'ecole;
- a member or officer of the Legislative Assembly;
- a member of the Privy Council, the Senate or the House of Commons;
- a spouse of any of the above people
- people who are legally confined to an institution; and
- people who are certified incompetent.
As well, individuals over age 65 or who have been on a jury within the last two years will be excused. These individuals are not automatically excluded.
The only information considered by the jury selection program is whether the person is over the age of 18 years and whether they have a residential address within the boundaries of the judicial district. There is no information provided to the Sheriff that could enable him or her to judge the age or health of an individual. A person over age 65 can serve on a jury if they wish. However, if they are unable or unwilling, seniors will be automatically excused from jury service upon request. All that is required is a phone call to the Sheriff's office or filling out and returning the form enclosed with the summons.
Requests to be excused from jury service can also be made if:
- serving on a jury would cause personal or financial hardship;
- a person is suffering from illness;
- a person is not capable of performing the duties of a juror; or
- a person is a practicing member of a religious group with which jury service is incompatible.