Federal judges may allow jurors to ask questions during criminal trials “so long as it is done in a manner that insures the fairness of the proceedings, the primacy of the court’s stewardship and the rights of the accused,” the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled in a case of first impression.

In United States v. Hernandez, a unanimous three-judge panel approved of the practice of Chief U.S. District Judge Anne E. Thompson of New Jersey to allow jurors to pose written questions for specific witnesses which are then reviewed by the judge and lawyers outside the hearing of the jury and posed to the witness only if the court agrees.