Among the many things that are granted to us by the constitution is the right to a fair trial by a jury of our peers. The jury brings together the minds of varied, unbiased people from different walks of life to decide the fate of someone on trial. It’s important then that the members of the jury are carefully chosen showing no discernible bias. Jury selection happens in two main steps: random selection and voir dire. Let’s take a look at how members of a jury are selected;
When selecting a jury, the first step is random selection from a list of people on a list kept by the federal district or from the state. This list is made of people who meet certain basic technical criteria to be on a jury. Basic criteria are being at least 18 years of age, being a registered voter, individuals who have a driver’s license, people who have not been convicted of a felony.
The second step of jury selection is called Voir Dire. It pares down the amount of jurors that were selected in the first step. The trial judge carries out voir dire by asking the jurors a variety of questions to make sure they’re actually qualified to be on the jury. If serving on the jury would cause a potential juror any major inconvenience, they might be excused from the jury. College students with major exams, people who care for an ill loved one, and jurors who will be undergoing a major medical procedure for example may be excused in most cases.
Once this preliminary screening is completed, the lawyers assigned to the case will question the remaining jurors and determine if they have any actual or implied biases that would stop them from fairly judging the case at hand. An actual bias is determined when a juror makes his or her bias known – personal biases like racial discrimination or religious objection to handing a guilty verdict. Jurors who admit an actual bias are immediately excused from the jury.
Implied biases are a little different and largely depend on the argument that the juror could have a bias. If a potential juror has a preexisting relationship with any key person in the trial, it’s unlikely that this person would be able to remain impartial. Careers can also fall into the realm of an implied bias. If, for example, a police officer is on trial for charges of police brutality and a potential juror is a former police officer, the argument could be made that this juror would be unable to work fairly on the jury and could be excused.
Finally, we come to peremptory challenges, in which a lawyer can dismiss a potential juror who can serve on the jury but is likely to decide for the opposing party. It’s a strategic move on both sides that cannot be used to dismiss jurors based on their class or race. Lawyers are limited in their amount of peremptory challenges.
Once the jurors are selected and there are no more challenges and once there are enough jurors for the case, jury selection ends and they can move on to the next part of the trial.
The lawyer you choose plays a vital role in the selection of the jury that may work your case. It’s imperative to have a discerning, experienced criminal defense lawyer who can do their best to ensure your jury makes for a fair trial.
If you or someone you know is facing trial, Lombardi and Lombardi, P.A. offers experienced lawyers who can fight for your right to a fair trial. Contact us today for your free consultation!