There are a lot of moving parts to a criminal case. Making an error in addressing any one of them can lead to devastating consequences. This is especially true when you’re facing a serious charge like murder or manslaughter, when a conviction could lead to devastating penalties.
That’s why it’s imperative that you know how to navigate your case in a way that protects your interests as fully as possible. This includes assessing the prosecution’s evidence to determine if evidence can be suppressed, attacking the credibility of the prosecution’s witnesses, and finding and presenting evidence that supports your position. One often overlooked way that you can protect your interests is by educating yourself on the jury selection process.
How jury selection works
You have the right to be tried by a jury of you peers. If you want that kind of trial, then you’ll have to go through the jury selection process. There are formal rules that apply to this process, so you’ll want to make sure that you know how to competently navigate them to protect your interests.
“For cause” challenges
Here, a random pool of potential jurors is brought to court and asked a number of questions by you and the prosecution. If during that questioning either side believes that a potential juror is unfit to serve on the jury, whether due to bias or some other justification, then a “for cause” request can be made to remove that juror.
Each side can have as many of these “for cause” challenges as are justified. This gives you the opportunity to dig deeply into each potential juror’s past so that you can identify any issues that may affect your ability to receive a fair trial. Just be prepared for the prosecution to do the same.
Each side will also have a limited number of peremptory challenges. Here, you can request that an individual be removed from the jury pool without giving a reason. Therefore, if you have a gut feeling about how a juror is going to approach your case, then you can act to remove him or her to maximize your ability to create the makeup of the jury. Just make sure that you’re not making these requests based on any discriminatory intent, as that can lead to a whole host of issues in your criminal case.
What if too many jurors are removed?
If too many jurors are removed from the jury pool, then the process will have to start over again. Sometimes the court will declare a mistrial, but in other cases the court will simply summon another complete jury pool. You’ll need patience as you navigate this process.
Why competent jury selection matters
If you’re headed to trial, then the jury holds your future in its hands. Although these individuals are supposed to be objective, the truth of the matter is that everyone comes to court with preconceived notions and biases. This means that an improperly selected jury may deem you guilty before even hearing your defense. You certainly don’t want that.
The jury selection process gives you the opportunity to ensure that you receive a trial that is fair by minimizing the impact of these biases. Therefore, throughout the selection process you need to be thorough in your questioning and strategic in your requests to remove. Fortunately, an attorney who is experienced in criminal defense can help guide you throughout the process and zealously advocate on your behalf.