"Don't bother," your attorney tells you.
"Don't waste your time," he says.
"Why not?" you ask.
"Because whatever they tell you won't mean a damn thing," your lawyer answers.
You know what?
He's right and let me tell you why.
Let's start at the beginning to understand.
Let's say you sued your doctor.
For medical malpractice.
He was careless.
Your lawyer hired a board certified expert who confirmed you had a good case.
Your doctor refused to accept responsibility for his actions.
He refused to acknowledge he did anything wrong.
He refused to accept that whatever he did caused you harm.
He also refused to accept that your injuries are permanent.
Your doctor also made it quite clear, through his attorney that he'd never settle your case.
He would never negotiate.
That meant that your case was going to trial.
After more than two years, your case finally came on for trial.
That's how long it takes to get to trial here in New York.
Your trial lasts more than two weeks.
Two weeks of evidence.
Listening to the brutal cross examinations.
But you're still hopeful that the jury will see the case your way.
In fact, you're confident they will.
But you have some doubts lurking in the back of your mind.
The last day of trial arrives.
The attorneys make closing arguments.
The judge then locks the courtroom door and gives legal instructions to the jury.
The judge tells the jury they must answer a series of questions, in order, so they can reach their verdict.
Then, he sends the six jurors out of the courtroom to begin discussing your case.
There are other jurors still sitting in the jury box.
They've been participating in the trial just like the main six jurors.
They've shown up every single day.
They take breaks with the other jurors.
They go to lunch at the same time as the other jurors.
They hear the same legal warnings and instructions as the other jurors.
The job of an alternate juror is to step into the shoes of one of the main jurors if they are no longer able to continue serving as a juror.
They are told they will be an alternate juror at the beginning.
They are told there is a chance they may not get to deliberate if all the main jurors are still there at the end of the case.
They accept this.
Immediately after the judge sends the main jury into the jury room to begin deliberating, he will release the alternate jurors.
"You are free to go. You may talk to anyone you wish. You can talk to the attorneys. You can talk to the litigants. Thank you for your service," the judge tells them.
You want to know who they think should win.
You want answers and who better to give you answers but jurors who are now told they can leave?
That's just the problem.
You see, during trial, the judge has instructed the jury, all of them, that they are NOT to talk about your case.
"Do not talk about this case at any time! Do not talk about witnesses. Do not talk about the evidence. Do not talk about the attorneys. The only time you will be permitted to discuss this case is at the very end, after I have instructed you on the law. If any juror talks about the case in your presence, you are to immediately notify me or the court officer..."
Why is that important?
Because the alternate jurors have never had a chance to talk with their fellow jurors about your case.
They don't know what the others are thinking.
They don't know if any of them are swayed in your favor.
They only know one thing.
That's how THEY feel about your case.
They are not talking to the other jurors.
They have not listened to other jurors and their opinions.
They have no input whatsoever.
Unfortunately, their opinion DOES NOT MATTER at that point.
So although they served a worthy purpose as an alternate juror, once they have been released from jury duty by the judge, talking to an alternate juror will have no effect whatsoever on the outcome of your case.
Nor will it give you any insight into what the jury was thinking collectively about whether you are more likely right than wrong that you're entitled to a verdict in your favor. That's just a fact. I'm not saying this to be mean or denigrate anyone for the time they spent as an alternate juror.
To get back to the title of this article...will it help your curiousity and anxiety to talk to alternate jurors after the jury is sent out to deliberate? The answer is a resounding no.