Upon the completion of a jury trial, the judge instructs the jury as to the requirements of the law and their duty to decide the case. The jury is then escorted by the bailiff or court officer from the courtroom to the jury deliberation room. These deliberations may last only a few minutes to many days; therefore the room must be comfortable, well ventilated, and designed to minimize the stress on jurors. The jury deliberation room must protect the privacy of the jurors and their deliberations and assure confidentiality.
In large courthouses, it may not be necessary to have a jury deliberation room for each jury courtroom. Smaller courts with infrequent needs for jury deliberation may wish to enlarge the room so that it may also serve as a jury assembly room or a court conference room or perform some other function when not in use by a jury.
The room should assure the confidentiality of the jury deliberations through soundproofing, controlled circulation, and supervision by a court security officer. An entrance sound lock, or vestibule, is desirable. Deliberation rooms should be equipped with both men's and women's toilets. In smaller jury rooms, consideration may be given to using a unisex toilet.
The jury deliberation room should comfortably accommodate 14 jurors, preferably at an oval-shaped table to encourage participation of all jurors. The room should be at least 280 square feet, with a minimum width of 14 feet. This will allow sufficient space for a blackboard, charts, exhibits, and video monitors. While some jurisdictions use smaller juries of 6 to 8 persons, the space savings of a smaller room are generally insignificant and reduce future flexibility to use larger juries.
Additional space should be provided for a vestibule and two toilets. Total area for a jury deliberation room should approximate 400 to 450 square feet.
The jury deliberation room should be soundproofed to prevent people in adjacent areas from hearing the deliberations. The room should be well lighted, well ventilated, and air conditioned.
To minimize contacts with outside persons, the jury room should be designed to eliminate the need for persons to leave the room. Men's and women's toilet facilities of approximately 40 to 50 square feet each should be located off the entrance vestibule. These should be soundproofed so that they may be used without embarrassment, and the doors should not open directly into the main jury room.
All jury deliberation rooms should be fully accessible to persons with disabilities and accommodate wheelchairs. Access to and from the courtroom should be barrier free.Deliberation areas shall accommodate at least one accessible wheelchair space at built-in seating and tables. Other requirements are identical to those required for the jury assembly room. Dedicated refreshment areas, kitchenettes, and toilets must be accessible. Fifty percent of each type of jury deliberation room provided shall have a permanently installed assistive listening system. A portable assistive listening system may be used in the remaining deliberation rooms.
It may be easier and more efficient to make every deliberation room fully accessible rather than to rely on moving equipment to and from different rooms, and it may not be feasible to have jurors use alternative jury rooms to accommodate handicapped jurors.
Consideration should be given to other assistive systems, such as real-time translation, note takers, and interpreters, in developing policies and architectural design.
The jury deliberation room should be near the courtroom. The room may adjoin the courtroom or be located across the private corridor. Again, optimum flexibility is achieved through physical separation. To provide confidentiality of the jurors’ deliberations, the room should not adjoin the attorney conference or witness-waiting rooms. A bailiff or other staff member may supervise the jury from a security station outside the jury deliberation room, or outside a cluster of jury deliberation rooms. There should also be a signaling or contact system for jurors to notify the bailiff of any special needs.
The jury deliberation room should be accessible from the courtroom by a private corridor. Jurors should not have to pass through the public-seating area of the courtroom to enter the jury deliberation room. The public must not be able to gain access to the jurors or see or hear the deliberations.
Jurors should enter the deliberation room through a vestibule of approximately 40 square feet. The vestibule will facilitate the movement of jurors from the courtroom to the jury deliberation room while also providing noise control and security. Jurors may also leave coats and store personal belongings in this area before moving into the main deliberation room.
Long and sometimes emotional deliberations can increase feelings of claustrophobia and general unease, thereby interfering with the decision-making process. Windows may be provided for visual and psychological relief, but should not allow the jurors to see or hear the public, as this may be grounds for a mistrial. If the jury deliberation room is located on the ground floor, it should not have windows, unless they are high enough to prevent a person outside from seeing or hearing the deliberations. The room should not have vented doors or transoms.
To minimize contact with outside persons, the room should be designed to eliminate the need for jurors to leave the room. A drinking fountain, or sink, and coffee machine should be located within the room, and toilets for both men and women should be provided. Comfortable chairs should be arranged around a conference table. The chairs should be upholstered, movable, with back support and arm rests. The traditional conference table is rectangular, but many courts are experimenting with round or oval shaped tables in an effort to make the seating positions more equitable and improve communication among the jurors.
Although telephones are not allowed in jury deliberation rooms, a telephone jack and electrical outlets should be installed for when the room is not in use by jurors. There should be cable connections for video monitors to allow jurors to view taped evidence and review transcripts. There needs to be a device to summon the bailiff when the deliberations have been concluded.