The complexities of a criminal case may overwhelm someone unfamiliar with the system. Here’s a PDF of my pamphlet which explains generally the parts of a trial and the processes leading up to trial. 12916-outside and 12916-inside
The first aspect of a jury trial is selecting a jury. Which 6 or 12 people will hear the case and decide whether a person is guilty or not guilty?
The phrase, “picking a jury” misrepresents what happens in jury selection. Also known as voir dire, a French phrase which means “telling the truth,” jury selection thrives on direct discussion between potential jurors and counsel for the parties. Potential jurors provide basic information, usually by answers to a written questionnaire: name, area of the community one lives in, profession, spouse, spouse’s profession, prior jury service, and, in criminal cases whether one is related by blood or marriage to someone in law enforcement.
Then, attorneys may ask questions of the jurors that relate to specific ideas in the case, the law surrounding criminal trials, what local organizations potential jurors are involved with, and many other topics.
Potential jurors who are related to a defendant or to a prosecuting witness may be struck for cause. A decision made by the judge to strike a potential juror for a legal reason is called a strike for cause. Neither side loses a the peremptory strike available when a potential juror is released for a legal cause.
Attorneys and their staff track the answers to questions, their impressions of the potential jurors, and how the attorney feels about the potential jurors on a chart. After enough jurors are qualified, counsel and clients have about 15 minutes to determine which jurors to strike. Defense counsel and client will evaluate who to strike and who to keep. During that discussion, counsel will likely be able to predict who the State will strike as well.
Jury selection really comes down to removal. The question is which potential juror does a party absolutely NOT want deciding a case? Clients usually fixate on the jurors they believe will see the client’s side of the story. Inevitably, the State will strike the jurors a client really wants because the prosecutor feels that those jurors will lean more towards the defendant.
In the end, the jury will be made of the people who fall in the middle of the spectrum between pro-prosecution and pro-defense.
© 2016 Nancee Tomlinson