Cesar Ornelas is a well-known attorney with a longstanding record of success serving clients in the San Antonio area and beyond. He has been handling catastrophic personal injury and death cases since his first day in practice. Since becoming a lawyer, Cesar Ornelas has done significant work for his clients throughout the state of Texas and throughout the United States, recovering damages in the millions of dollars through verdicts and settlements.
In addition to being a member of the State Bar of Texas, and the Texas Trial Lawyers Association, Cesar Ornelas has been named a life member of both the Million Dollar Advocates Forum and the Multi-Million Dollar Advocates Forum. The Million Dollar Advocates Forum is recognized as one of the most prestigious groups of trial lawyers in the United States and less than 1% of U.S. lawyers are members.
In the spring of 2021, Cesar Ornelas was selected to be a part of The National Trial Lawyers Top 40 Under 40, an invitation-only program extended exclusively to those trial lawyers practicing civil plaintiff and/or criminal defense law.
Cesar Ornelas understands juries and the crucial role they play in our justice system.
How exactly do juries work?
The Importance of Juries
Citizens have two mandatory obligations – voting and jury service.
Lay person participation in the legal system is considered central to a healthy democracy. Lawyers play a major role in making the laws. Judges then apply the laws. If juries weren’t used, lawyers would have a monopoly over the law. Lawyers have their own specialized language in which they communicate among themselves. Including juries in the legal system forces lawyers to use common language.
It’s the collective wisdom of 12 that makes a jury. Jurors bring to the trial 12 times more life experience than a judge. Psychological research has established that personal, subconscious biases can be identified and addressed in group discussion.
How do Juries Work?
Jurors are randomly selected from the electoral roll. Randomly selected citizens receive a summons to attend court. Once the jurors arrive at the courthouse, they wait to be randomly chosen to go to a specific courtroom as part of a jury panel.
Once in the courtroom, a potential juror’s name (or allocated number) may be pulled out of a box. That potential juror can then either
- seek to be excused (because perhaps they know someone involved in the trial)
- take a seat in the jury box, or
- be removed from the jury by one of the parties to the case. This is known as the “peremptory challenge” process.
While it’s unusual for a prosecutor to “challenge” (deselect) a juror, some jurisdictions still allow for a defendant to “challenge” a juror based on the way they look and sometimes their name and occupation.
But research has highlighted that, based on such limited information, the peremptory challenge process is no better than a guessing game, as it’s not possible for a defendant to know whether a citizen is going to be favorable to their defense just based on what they look like and their occupation.
A defendant has no way of knowing how a jury will vote based only on their age or occupation. from shutterstock.com
Several studies confirm that our juries reflect a cross-section of our community in terms of cultural mix, age and gender balance. Juries are more likely to be better educated than an ordinary member of the public. This may, in part, be a result of counsels’ preference for educated jurors when exercising their peremptory challenges.
What About Outside Influence?
Jurors are forbidden from having any prior intimate knowledge of the trial, from privately communicating with anyone involved in the trial and from doing their own research. Maintaining the impartiality of jurors has become problematic in the digital age.
Last century, courts used to successfully make orders to suppress potentially prejudicial information (such as prior convictions). But the far reach of the internet means such suppression orders no longer work as they can’t prevent publication on overseas websites or social media that is accessed locally.
Jurors are told by the judge not to look at any media reports on their case. But jurors on trials of high profile defendants may not be able to avoid the barrage of negative pretrial publicity. A growing body of research suggests that jurors who are exposed to negative publicity are significantly more likely to judge the defendant guilty compared to subjects exposed to less pre-trial publicity.
How do they Reach a Verdict, and What is a Hung Jury?
A typical jury trial will take fewer than ten days. The jurors hear the evidence, listen to the arguments of both parties and are provided with instructions on the relevant law by the judge. It is then time to deliberate and decide whether the defendant is “guilty” or “not guilty” of the offenses charged. No written reasons for the verdicts are required.
The vast majority of juries are able to reach their verdict unanimously. In some types of cases, agreement of 11 out of 12 jurors is an acceptable verdict. A hung jury occurs when a jury deliberates for several hours or days, but are unable to agree on a verdict. In the usual course, the same case will be presented to a new jury.
Studies have indicated that hung juries occurred in a small number (8%) of trials. Longer trials, and jury trials in more culturally diverse city courts, may be more likely to attract a hung jury.
An initial hung verdict does not invalidate a second, unanimous one – it more likely means some of the jurors from the first trial were also in agreement with the final verdict.
Do Juries Get it ‘Right’?
Jury secrecy means we have no accurate way of knowing whether juries are getting it “right.” Jurors are forbidden from discussing their deliberations with anyone, including why they came to a decision.
A few studies have asked trial judges what verdict they would have come to in jury trials. A comparison between what the judges said and the real jury verdict reveals a high level of agreement between the two.
While scientifically we cannot confirm that specific jury verdicts are “correct,” the jury system is necessary for our justice system.
Whether you’re facing a judge or a jury in your case, Cesar Ornelas can help you seek justice. To learn more, visit https://cesarornelaslaw.com/ or call (855) 710-4912.