When a case is to be tried by a jury, there are different steps of jury selection that must be completed before the trial will begin.
The first step in selecting a jury is the random pull of potential jurors from a pool of local residents. If someone has registered to vote, filed state taxes, or obtained a local driver’s license they are automatically added to this juror pool. The potential juror is then sent a qualification form to ensure they are eligible to serve on a jury. Once qualified, they are then scheduled to be on-call during a set period of time. If a defendant’s case is to be tried during that time, those on-call may be asked to appear at the courthouse for further jury selection.
The next step in jury selection is called voir dire which translates loosely to “speak the truth”. A panel of potential jurors that are on-call will come to the courthouse to be questioned by the trial judge or the attorneys handling the case. These questions could include:
• Does the juror know anyone involved in the case?
• Has the juror or a family member ever been involved in a similar type of case?
• What does the juror do for employment?
• What kind of hobbies does the juror have?
• Is there any reason why the juror shouldn’t be selected for the jury, such as personal biases?
Through these questions, both sides have the opportunity to challenge for cause or ask a juror to be removed if they feel they are not qualified for that specific case. After challenges for cause are complete, the attorneys are also peremptory challenges. According to Utah Courts Rule 47, “Each party shall be entitled to three peremptory challenges.” Peremptory challenges allow each side to dismiss a juror without giving a reason. Perhaps they feel the juror would side too much with the opposing side.
Once the jury selection is complete, the trial can then begin. While it may be intimidating for a defendant to be judged by other people in the community, there are times when the defendant’s legal counsel feels a jury of peers is the best option to ensure a fair trial. For more information on what cases are best tried by a jury, contact an experienced criminal defense attorney.