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How are jurors selected for a criminal trial?

When someone is charged with serious criminal offenses, the U.S. Constitution guarantees individuals the right to a jury trial. Therefore, careful consideration by attorneys when choosing a jury can be crucial to the outcome of the case.

How are people chosen to serve on a jury? There are two parts to selecting a jury.

The first part is basically a random selection of people. The state keeps a list that is used for selecting potential jurors. For example, it could be a list of people who have a driver's license or people who are registered to vote. The people who are selected will be notified by mail when they need to appear.

The second part of the jury selection process is call "Voir Dire." This is how the selection of possible jurors is narrowed down to the individuals who will hear and decide the case.

This process can vary significantly, depending on the state and even the judge. In some courts, the judge could choose some people at random from those who showed up and simply excuse them from jury duty.

The way that voir dire usually works is that the attorneys and the judge will ask the potential juror about his or her beliefs and background. This could be done in the courtroom or in private.

Each attorney can object to keeping a potential juror. There are a couple of objections for this: "challenges for cause" and "peremptory challenges." When a peremptory challenge is used, there does not need to be a reason given. However, there is only a set amount of peremptory challenges an attorney is allowed to use.

A challenge for cause is used when something that is in the background of a possible juror that the attorney doesn't feel would be fair to his or her side. For example, if the juror said that his mother is married to a retired police officer, the defense attorney will likely not feel as though the juror could be fair. A peremptory challenge, though, cannot be because of a potential juror's gender or race.

Most criminal cases do not go to trial. However, those that do should have an experienced litigator on the defendant's side. An attorney can provide more information based on his or her courtroom experience.

Source: FindLaw, "How Are Potential Jurors Selected?," accessed Oct. 01, 2015

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