Updated: Tuesday, 02 Feb 2010, 11:33 PM EST
Published : Tuesday, 02 Feb 2010, 9:42 PM EST
GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) -- In the case of Calista Springer, the attorneys aren't the only ones asking the questions. Members of the jury can participate in questioning witnesses, as well.
It's one of the main jury trial procedures currently being tested in Michigan court rooms, as part of the jury reform pilot project.
Ordered by the Michigan Supreme Court, about 12 judges have been asked to participate.
Muskegon County Circuit Court Judge Timothy G. Hicks has presided over about 15 cases using the test procedures in the past three years.
"(One of the program's goals) is to implement basic educational tools a lot of us use in our everyday jobs into the courtroom setting," he told 24 Hour News 8 on Tuesday.
Under the pilot program, jurors can submit written questions to witnesses through the presiding judge. The questions must be pre-screened and agreed upon by the judge and both attorneys.
Jurors are provided with notebooks containing a witness list, summaries of key aspects of the case and criteria for the burden of proof. They can take notes to be used during deliberation.
In addition, jurors can openly discuss the case amongst themselves during recess, as long as all jurors are present.
The potential advantages include helping jurors better process complex information.
"They are able to identify almost immediately points of disagreement -- just different points of view," Hicks said.
And while he said the procedures may take more time during the trial, the deliberation process is usually quicker.
However, there is the question of trial integrity and getting the attorneys on board. Some are concerned a test such as this could lead to challenges and appeals.
"It met a lot of opposition from the bar," Hicks said. "The attorneys want to control the information and control the case, and they're giving up some of that control. To me, the trade-off is worth it, because we're getting more participation."
For more information, watch the video.