How Do Lawyers Select Juries?
If you’re involved in a legal case, your most important decision will probably take place before you ever go to trial. It just makes good sense to choose a lawyer with extensive experience representing clients in cases that are similar to yours. Moreover, if your case is likely to go to trial, you will surely need an attorney with significant trial experience. Many lawyers lack the necessary experience to select the jurors that will ultimately decide your fate.
Selecting a Jury
The art of selecting a jury, often referred to as voir dire in legal circles, requires extensive legal training and trial experience. The American justice system makes it possible for the competing lawyers in a legal case to participate in the jury selection process. This ensures that the case will be decided by a fair and impartial jury.
The first stage of a trial involves the selection of an impartial jury. A large number of potential jurors will be on hand to do their civic duty. Government officials typically use voter rolls, driver license information or some other data base to select citizens for jury duty. About fifty prospective jurors are assigned numbers and seated in the courtroom to await further instructions.
The presiding judge may ask a number of questions to make certain that the prospective jurors are qualified to serve on a jury. Some of the more common juror qualifications are listed below:
- Minimum age requirement
- United States citizenship
- Legal residence in the relevant county or parish for a designated period of time, usually one year
The judge may also want to know whether any of the prospective jurors are personally acquainted with the litigants, key witnesses or attorneys associated with the case. Often times, 12 prospective jurors are randomly selected and asked to take a seat in the jury box. The judge will then allow the attorneys for the plaintiff and defendant to question the prospective jurors.
The attorneys are searching for personality profiles that are likely to decide the case in a manner that is favorable to their client.
Type of Case
In a personal injury case, for example, the plaintiff’s lawyer wants to retain jurors that are more likely to award financial damages. In a criminal case, the defense lawyer might want to eliminate prospective jurors that have previously been victimized by criminal activity. The lawyers will also want to know whether any of the prospective jurors have ever served on a jury and the verdicts that were rendered.
Depending on the case, the process of selecting a slate of acceptable jurors can be time consuming. In most states, each attorney will be allowed to excuse, or strike, up to six prospective jurors. The attorneys are searching for jurors that will decide the case based on the available evidence.