For most trial attorneys in Colorado, juror questions are part and parcel to trial practice. And in federal and state courts elsewhere, attorneys and judges have been warming up to the once-controversial custom. But the little slips of paper that jurors pass to the bailiff still cause consternation for some courts, and criminal attorneys in particular.
Colorado has expressly allowed jurors to submit questions to witnesses in criminal trials since 2003 and for civil trials prior to that. It remains one of only a few states with a mandate on the practice, along with Arizona and Indiana. Georgia, Minnesota, Mississippi and Nebraska prohibit the practice of juror questions.
The practice has steadily gained traction in federal courts — at least on the civil side. In 2015, juror questions were allowed in 25 percent of federal civil jury trials, according to a nation-wide survey by the National Center for State Courts Center for Jury Studies. That was up from 16 percent from a NCSC survey in 2005.
Out of attorneys who had experience with juror questions, about 61 percent recommend the practice and about 16 percent opposed it, according to a 2015 survey by the Civil Jury Project and the American Society of Trial Consultants.