Understanding How a Jury Is Selected

The right to a trial by jury in criminal cases is guaranteed in the United States by the Sixth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The process of jury selection is called voir dire and involves the random selection of jurors from a jury pool, followed by the subsequent selection of 6 to 12 jurors depending on the type of case and whether the case is in federal court or state court. During voir dire, generally the judge and the attorneys if permitted by the court, may question members of the jury pool to determine who is competent and able to serve as a juror in their particular case. The integrity of the process is very important, because errors during jury selection may be grounds for an appeal in a criminal case as well as understanding that those chosen will hold someone’s liberty in their hands.  So, what else is there to know about voir dire? Let’s discuss the basics.

The Selection Process

The voir dire process begins by bringing in a randomly selected pool of jurors (called the “venire”). The judge will then start by asking the members of the venire questions to determine whether they are legally qualified to serve on the jury and ensure that their service will not cause them undue hardship. Examples of such undue hardship include things like having a scheduled surgery or being the sole caretaker of young children at home.

Next, if permitted,  the lawyers for each side will pose questions that seek to uncover information about potential biases held by prospective jurors, as well as background information including whether prospective jurors have pre-existing knowledge about the case. They may also ask questions to determine whether the prospective juror has characteristics or experiences in their past that might cause them to favor one side over the other. However, it’s important to note that lawyers can’t ask anything overtly personal nor inappropriate, nor can they ask them anything that elicits an answer as to how they might decide their particular case.

Jury Challenges

After questioning is completed, the lawyers will begin the process of removing people from the venire by making two types of challenges: (1) for cause and (2) peremptory challenges.

  • For cause. A for cause challenge occurs when a lawyer believes there is reason to suggest that a  juror shows a bias either for or against either side. If this occurs, then the lawyer can ask the judge to dismiss the juror. Each side can request to dismiss an unlimited number of jurors for cause, and each request will be considered individually by the judge.
  • Peremptory. Peremptory challenges are different, in that the lawyers don’t have to provide a reason for why they want to dismiss a potential juror. However, the number of these types of challenges that can be made is limited based on the type of crime alleged, the number of defendants and in what court the case is being tried.  Of course, they certainly cannot be used in a discriminatory manner.

Contact Weisberg Kainen Mark, PL today.

At Weisberg Kainen Mark, PL, we understand the complicated and sensitive nature of being charged with a criminal offense. If you or a loved one have been charged with a crime, contact us to speak with a member of our experienced team today.

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