There’s a lot to consider when building your criminal defense. While you may want to work with prosecutors early on to try to mitigate the fallout from your case, and you certainly want to gather evidence that contradicts the prosecution’s case, you can’t neglect the legal technicalities that are involved in your case. This includes jury selection.
Why jury selection matters
The jury that ends up hearing your case is going to be charged with determining whether the state has met its burden of proof by proving your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. That’s a high bar, for sure, but it can be skewed if the individuals who serve on the jury come into court with preconceived notions about you, your case, and your guilt. The jury selection process, though, gives you the opportunity to identify potential jurors’ biases so that you can better ensure that you receive a fair trial.
Selecting the jury
During jury selection, members of the jury pool will come into court and be subjected to questioning by your attorney and the prosecutor. These questions are aimed at eliciting biases and knowledge of the case that could affect the potential juror’s ability to be impartial in the proceedings. If during this questioning it becomes apparent that the potential juror will favor one side or the other, either side can ask the court to dismiss that individual from the jury pool. You can ask for as many of these “for cause” removals as you can justify, but you’ll have to be articulate in your reasoning for making those requests.
For example, if you’ve been accused of serious drug charges, then you may not want someone on the jury who had a loved one pass away from a drug overdose. In a case involving domestic battery, it may not be in your interests to have a juror who is a survivor of domestic violence. These built-in biases, if not caught early on in your case, very well could lead to your conviction.
You’ll also be given a limited number of peremptory challenges. Here, you have the ability to remove a potential juror without specifying a reason for doing so. Your request can’t be based on any discriminatory purpose, though, such as removing all potential jurors of a particular race or ethnicity. If you’re found to have done that, then the prosecution can ask the court to take corrective action.
Once jury selection is complete
Once all challenges have been made, you should be left with a proper number of individuals to compose the jury along with some alternates. If the challenges made by the defense and the prosecution have diminished the jury pool so significantly that there are not enough people left, then a new jury pool may be brough in to start the process over, or the court may declare a mistrial, in which case the entire process will begin anew.
Know how to be diligent in jury selection
Jury selection may seem like a boring process to some, but it’s critically important to your criminal defense. Therefore, you have to be thorough in assessing potential jurors and know how to craft questions that get to the heart of the matter. This is oftentimes easier said than done, though, which is why you may want to have a skilled legal advocate on your side. That way you can better protect your right to a fair trial and perhaps even increase your chances of beating the prosecution’s charges.