Jury Selection in a case is chosen from a jury pool called a venire that has been determined by the court. While the process for determining this jury pool varies from state to state, common methods include compiling lists of registered voters or driver’s licenses.
This pool is screened to narrow down the potential jurors to only those allowed by the law. While history provided several exemptions from jury duty in the past, today that list of exemptions has gotten significantly smaller and in some states, eliminated altogether. In order to qualify for jury duty, you must be a citizen of the United States, be at least 18 years of age, be proficient in English, never have been convicted of a felony nor currently be subject to felony charges, have no disqualifying mental or physical condition, and reside primarily in the judicial district for a minimum of one year. Members of the armed forces on active duty, firefighters, police officers, and those who hold public office in federal, state, or local governments are exempted from jury duty and therefore are not eligible for selection. Other exemptions are granted on a state or individual case basis, and can include people over 70 years of age as well as anyone who has served on a federal jury within the last two years.
Juries can consist of anywhere from six to twelve people, depending on the type of case being tried. Grand juries, however, have anywhere from sixteen to twenty-three members. Potential jurors are selected at random from the pool. Once the potential jurors have been selected, they fill out questionnaires in order to determine whether the particular individual in question is qualified to serve as a juror. After these questionnaires are reviewed by the court, individuals are randomly selected to be summoned for jury duty. The fact that the jury selection process relies so heavily on the element of randomness ensures fairness and a more accurate representation of the different members of the community. According to AmericanJuror, approximately twenty percent of prospective jurors are actually selected for jury duty.
Being summoned for jury duty, however, does not ensure that individuals will serve on a jury. The group of qualified jurors is questioned by the judge and the attorneys to further determine how suitable they are to serve on the jury for that particular case. This is a process called voir dire, which means, “to speak the truth.” Lawyers narrow down the potential jurors by dismissing them for cause, which means there is information that shows that a juror may be prejudiced about the case or know people involved in the case, which would make it impossible for them to judge the case fairly. Jurors can also be dismissed as a result of a peremptory challenge, where the lawyer does not have to state the cause for dismissal. Lawyers are limited to a certain number of peremptory challenges. When both parties of lawyers agree on a jury, the jurors are sworn in to try the case by the court clerk and the final selection is made.
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