Jury selection is perhaps the most important part of the trial process, and it happens before the trial even begins! It can completely change the outcome of the case with just a few good or bad choices. But what makes a good or bad choice? How does the process work? With this article, we will walk you through everything you need to know about jury selection.
Who selects the jury?
Henry Gereis: The short answer is both parties attorneys. Jury selection or Voir Dire is fascinating because it is the only point in the trial process where the defense attorney goes first. In a single defendant trial, both the defense and the prosecution can strike up to six potential jurors preemptively for any reason. Similarly, both the defense and the prosecution can strike potential jurors for cause, by arguing to the Court that based on their responses to questions asked, a particular juror(s) displayed an inability or reluctance to be fair and impartial. In a trial with multiple defendants, the defense is also awarded joint challenges, and can strategically coordinate with counsel accordingly.
What is the goal of jury selection?
Henry Gereis: Both the defense attorney and the prosecutor are awarded a brief opportunity to ask the potential jurors questions. The goal is to inquire whether potential jurors can be fair and impartial triers of the facts in a case while reaching a verdict. Sometimes, a particular person may not be the most suitable to be a juror in a particular case, because the charged offense(s) may cut too close to a negative or traumatic event they experienced in their personal life. Other times, people may feel uncomfortable stating their honest opinions in a formal and public setting, and resort to providing a safer, less genuine answer.
The defense should also be cognizant of the effect the defendants physical presence, often sitting directly in front of the potential jurors, may have on their ability and willingness to be forthcoming on sensitive subjects. Effective jury selection requires the defense to analyze jurors responses, parceling out politically correct portions while sifting for the truth. As a result, the focus is eliminating bad potential jurors instead of attempting to empanel good potential jurors. In doing so, it is paramount that the attorney showcase themselves as a person first, and conduct themselves in a manner that makes the jury comfortable with them. They must embody the genuineness that they hope to reciprocate from the jury.
What are the best questions to ask the jury?
Henry Gereis: It is not about specific questions, as much as it is about what the questions hope to achieve. Interestingly, Voir Dire is a Latin term that means “to see, to say” or “speak the truth.” Extracting genuine responses from potential jurors is always a focus. To achieve this, it is best to illustrate bad facts and issues associated with the case which might lead to biases, ill opinions of the defendant, and negative outlooks on the trial itself. However, one challenge for the defense involves highlighting these issues without being overtly fact specific or foreshadowing. This balance is why many attorneys refer to voir dire as an art. Done correctly, this style of questioning will inevitably eliminate those most affected by these negative details, and reveal those not suitable to be jurors in a particular case.
Why is jury selection important?
Henry Gereis: Jury selection is crucial in that it is an opportunity to assemble the best panel of individuals to hear the facts of a specific case, arguments from the parties involved, and ultimately reach a verdict. In the same vein, it is an opportunity to eliminate individuals who may have biases or other internal factors that will prevent them from being fair or impartial. The most seasoned and skilled attorneys understand that if jurors are biased, reserved, or rouge, all their talent and experience may ultimately yield fruitless results for the client. As a defense attorney, your client’s fate often rests in the hands of the jury, and the utmost care needs to be taken in ensuring each juror is a patient, fair and impartial trier of fact.
To learn more about Henry Gereis and schedule a free consultation call, visit www.esqaspire.com.
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