The Sixth Amendment of the United States Constitution provides for the right to a fair trial by a jury in a criminal case. The process of selecting a jury for a criminal case is very important. The defense and the prosecution each work to obtain jurors whom they believe will be in favor of his or her side of the case. The judges and attorneys ask questions of the potential jurors to decide if an individual would be suitable to serve on the jury. The process must be done fairly, however. If an error occurs in the jury selection process, then an appeal could result after a conviction.
When a criminal case has led to a trial, the jury selection process begins with a room full of potential jurors in the courtroom. The jurors were randomly selected to come to the courthouse to possibly be selected for the case at hand. First, the jurors are asked basic questions to confirm the individuals are qualified to serve on the jury and doing so would not be burdensome. In order to serve as a juror, a person must be a U.S. citizen, at least 18-yearspold, live in the court’s jurisdiction, and have the right to vote. Also, each person must be able to physically sit through the entire trial and hear and understand the trial testimony. Jurors must also be mentally aware enough to comprehend and apply the judge’s legal instructions, as well. Any person who doesn’t meet these criteria will be dismissed “for cause.” A person may be excused from serving as a juror due to the hardship being on the jury could cause, too. For example, if a woman is responsible for taking care of an ill family member, then she may be excused from having to serve. Next, the defense and prosecution each question the jurors to determine if they have an biases or knowledge of the case they may be selected for. This also is a time for the attorneys to learn more about the backgrounds of the potential jurors and to determine if their past experiences and characteristics would be beneficial to the case. It is important to note, a lawyer may not ask a potential juror how he or she would decide on the case. Attorneys also are not allowed to ask questions that would be viewed as too personal.
A process, during jury selection, takes place to remove jurors from serving on the jury panel. This process is known as “striking a jury.” If the defense or prosecution attorney does not want a certain juror on the panel, he or she will explain why to the judge. If the judge sides with the attorney, that juror member will be struck from the jury panel. This is also known as “challenging” a juror. After the “striking a jury” process, about 6 to 23 jurors must remain to move forward with the trial. After the challenges, the remaining jurors are then placed in the jury box by the judge. The jury selection process comes to a close with the swearing-in of the jury.