- April 11, 2023
- The Justice System
Jury Selection in a Criminal Case
Jury selection is an intricate process that can make or break a trial. If it looks like your case may be headed to trial, it is important to understand what goes on behind the scenes during jury selection so you can be prepared to face these individuals in the courtroom.
Jury Selection Process – An Overview
There are a lot of factors that determine who gets to sit in the courtroom as part of a jury panel. Attorneys for the prosecution and the defense work together to choose a jury of 12 people who will hear the case and decide on a verdict. The lawyer for each side gets to ask questions of potential jurors in a process known as Voir Dire, and they can strike jury members for any reason. When making final jury selections, the goal is fairness and impartiality.
During jury selection, the attorneys will ask the potential jurors questions about their backgrounds and their view on various issues. They will also try to gauge whether or not the juror is likely to be biased against their client.
Once the jury is selected, the jury will be sworn in and tasked with hearing the evidence and arguments presented by both sides before rendering a verdict.
In a criminal case, the jury must be selected from a pool of potential jurors that meet certain qualifications. These qualifications, as enumerated in the Jury Act, include:
- United States citizenship
- 18 years of age or older
- Residency in the state in which the court is sitting
- No prior felony convictions
- Ability to understand English
In addition to these general qualifications, there may be other specific qualifications that are required for a particular case. For example, if the case involves a federal crime, the potential juror must also be a resident of the judicial district in which the court is sitting.
The Voir Dire Process
Voir dire is the process whereby prospective jurors are questioned about their qualifications to serve on a jury.
The court will ask the lawyers on both sides to submit a list of questions to be asked during voir dire. The questioning of prospective jurors is done in open court, and the entire jury panel will be present. The prosecutor and defense attorneys will take turns asking questions of the prospective jurors. The judge may also ask questions of the prospective jurors.
The purpose of voir dire is to enable the attorneys to determine which potential jurors might have biases or preconceptions that would prevent them from fairly deciding the case. For example, a prospective juror who was previously injured in a drunk driving accident may not be selected to sit on a jury for an OWI case.
After the questioning is complete, each attorney will have an opportunity to strike a certain number of potential jurors from the panel. The number of strikes allowed will depend on the severity of the charge; in capital cases, each side is typically allowed to strike 20 potential jurors without having to give a reason. Once the strikes have been made, the remaining potential jurors will be seated as trial jurors.
If you are facing criminal charges, your choice of attorney is critical to the jury selection process. A knowledgeable criminal defense attorney will ensure that jurors are selected fairly and with respect to the circumstances of your case.