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Jury Selection Process

What is the process of jury selection?

The jury selection process is the process of selecting the jurors to serve during a trial. There are many ways to choose the people who will serve on a trial. Jury lists are generally compiled using voter registrations and driver license/state ID renewals. The jurors need to be U.S. citizens. The pool of jury members is commonly shortlisted from the community through a random method. Once members are enlisted, each one is sent a summons. A panel of jurors then gathers on a particular date in the courtroom. These prospective jurors are subjected to rigorous questioning by the judge and/or attorneys to assess their thought processes and backgrounds. Sometimes attorneys use the help of jury consultants or experts to assess the jury better. Once a jury is officially selected the jurors have been "impaneled".

What type of questions are permissible during the jury selection process?

Jury duty is not a job that someone has to perform. Hence employment qualification laws do not apply to jury selection. The attorneys on the case have the right to question and probe into any and all aspects of a potential juror’s background in order to get information as to how the person would react to the evidence of the case. The purpose of this type of investigation is to discriminate for or against people who have may come to the proceedings with a particular set of beliefs related to the case based on their background.

What techniques are used to ensure the most suitable juror is selected? Is it considered jury tampering?

The jury selection process is complicated. It is one of the most important aspects of a criminal trial. Jury selection can determine which way the verdict will go because of the type of people chosen, their backgrounds, and their experiences. The key is to gather as much relevant information from the jury as possible. To do this the jurors answer a questionnaire with basic information, after which the attorneys question the jurors individually and in a group to gather more information. Questioning the jurors is not considered tampering as it is part of the criminal trial proceeding. Moreover, a judge presides over the entire process and the attorneys do not get any time alone with the jurors. This helps avoid jury tampering.

Why should juries consist of a fair cross-section of people from the area where the trial is to be held? Is this a method to prevent discrimination to infiltrate into the jury? If juries are meant to be unprejudiced, why do defendants have a right to choose a trial by judge and reject a jury trial?

Juries are meant to consist of a fair cross-section of people or people from different backgrounds or cultures to neutralize the influence of predispositions of individual jurors and protect the concerned parties from arbitrary government power. This is a method to prevent discrimination as the jury is a representative of the community and an integral part of the jury selection process.

Juries are pertinent to justice but there is no reason to discount that a judge is incapable of making a fair and correct inference based on the evidence presented to him/her. The judge may even be better suited due to his/her formal legal training.

I was selected for jury duty for a murder trial. Despite the court’s instructions I researched about the trial on the internet. I was dismissed from the jury prior to the jury selection. Now I have received a warrant to appear at court. Do I need legal counsel?

Since the court has provided specific instructions to the potential juror members not to look for information on the case, violation of this is considered as contempt of court. Usually in such scenarios, the court imposes a fine, generally around $100. However it is highly unlikely the court will take further action. Since you have admitted your error and the court is aware of this information you could apologize to the court, stating you made a mistake and asking the court to re-consider. You could also hire the services of a criminal defense attorney to protect your interests at your hearing.

The jury selection process plays a key role in a criminal trial. The attorneys dealing with the selection need to choose people from a fair cross section of society and question them thoroughly. This is done to understand their backgrounds and thought processes, and to see if they have any preconceived notions or prejudices. Jury selection is a rigorous and a time consuming process. To understand more about the jury selection process, consulting a lawyer could reveal useful and relevant information.
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