With courts easing restrictions on some in-person proceedings this week, judges are grappling with how to prioritize jury trials. It’ll depend on whether the defendants are in custody, the seriousness of the charges, age of the case, and whether the parties can be ready in time. However, if you are an attorney, right now would be the best time to wait for trial due to limited jury selection.
Why is jury selection so important?
Trial lawyers all have different ideas as to what wins cases. Some say the key to winning trials is the opening statement, others will tell you it’s the closing argument. In reality, the most important part of trial is jury selection.The right to a jury trial for a serious criminal charge is guaranteed by the Constitution. A jury is charged with finding the facts of the case after carefully reviewing the evidence and deliberating. Each and every juror must be willing to follow the instructions of the court and not just say they are going to follow the instructions, like most people will do. If you don’t have a completely fair and impartial jury then there is a strong likelihood that you’ve lost the case before it even begins.
Jury Selection and “Voir Dire”
“Voir Dire” refers to the second stage of jury procedures, and is the process by which the court and the attorneys narrow down the pool of jurors to the 12 people that will decide the case. The process for voir dire varies from state to state, and even from judge to judge. However, the judge and attorneys always interview each juror about their backgrounds and beliefs. Sometimes this happens in front of the rest of the jury pool, sometimes this happens in private. Each attorney has the chance to object to jurors. There are two types of objections: “peremptory challenges” (non-favorable) and “challenges for cause” (prejudice), although legal professionals are not allowed to use peremptory challenges based on the race or gender of potential jurors.
Deciding your jury is paramount for your case, so it’s best to be prepared.