The 6th Amendment in the United States constitution guarantees every person the right to a trial by a jury in criminal cases. To be a juror in a particular case, several judges and attorneys will assess your suitability and competence in a process known as ‘’voir dire,’’ a Latin word meaning ‘’to speak the truth.’’ Jurors should have the ability to sit for the entire trial duration and comprehend the testimonies from the trial.
Wondering how jurors are selected for trials? Here is the process:
1) A Panel of Prospective Jurors Appears Before the Trial Judge in The Courtroom
After a case has been called to trial, the trial judge will start the selection process by determining whether or not the potential jurors are legally qualified to serve on the jury. The trial judge will look at whether or not the jury duty in question will cause undue hardship for the prospective jurors’ professional and personal commitments.
2) Prosecution and Defense Attorneys Question Prospective Jurors
After the court has reviewed each juror’s questionnaire and assessed other preliminary matters about the jurors, attorneys in the case are then allowed to ask questions to the jurors. The questions are critical in knowing about the jurors’ backgrounds and previous knowledge about the case, hence determining whether or not there’s a conflict of interest in the case.
Attorneys can draw out biases they identify with jurors during questioning before the case begins. It is, however, important to know that the attorneys are not allowed to ask personal questions.
3) Thinning the Herd
After the questioning phase, the list of potential jurors is narrowed down from the panel by making ‘’peremptory challenges’’ and ‘’challenges for cause.’’
Challenges for Cause
Challenges for cause are made to determine if a juror is found to be unqualified, unable, or unfit in the concerned case. Lawyers are not limited in the number of challenges for causes they can bring up. A juror can also be challenged to exit the case if they are found to have:
Actual Bias by juror
This comes up when a potential jury makes an admission they cannot practice impartiality, for instance, if he or she cannot take a given stance such as passing a death penalty on a guilty verdict case. This partiality then affects the case’s outcome, not due to evidence but because a given judge was openly biased in passing judgement.
Implied Bias by juror
This kind of bias can be seen in personality and character jurors, regardless of what they say or do during jury selection. A juror who is found to be friends with the trial judge, for example, will be dismissed in the challenge for cause.
Lawyers are allowed to dismiss certain potential jurors using the peremptory challenge without giving any reason. This allows attorneys from both the prosecution and defense to exclude jurors who are qualified but appear to be inclining towards one side. When all challenges for cause have been exhausted, attorneys move to peremptory challenges, either submitted orally or in writing.
Can peremptory challenges be used to unfairly target jurors?
A lawyer is not allowed to use the challenge to dismiss a juror based on prejudicial factors such as class or race. Also, the use of peremptory challenges is limited; the number allotted to each lawyer varies from state to state.
4) The Last Step
The final step in selecting jurors is referred to as ‘’striking the jury.’’ This is where both the prosecution and defense argue their challenges for cause. If a challenge is granted, this will ‘’strike’’ out a juror from the panel of potential jurors.
After the two challenges are done, the remaining jurors are placed in the jury box by the trial judge, signaling the selection process selection. The states have different numbers of jurors that are needed for trial, but they generally range from 6-23. If many potential judges have been struck out in the challenging process, the trial can either declare a mistrial or summon additional potential jurors.
The selection of jurors for any trial is as important as the trial itself, as a fair and effective process can pick qualified and impartial jurors who will guarantee a fair trial that will serve justice.