We’ve all received a jury summons at some point. We groan, call in, sit in the waiting room, and keep our fingers crossed that we won’t actually get called to serve. But if you’re a defendant sitting on the other side of the courtroom, you’re keeping your own fingers crossed – that correct and fair jurors will be chosen to hear your case.
Choosing a Jury
Jurors are responsible for determining the future of the defendant on trial. It is their responsibility to hear the evidence presented during the trial, deliberate, and decide if the defendant is guilty or not guilty of any charged crimes. The job of a juror is an important one, and any juror that has certain biases going into the trial can create an unfair trial for the defendant.
Because of this, the criminal court system has created a system for choosing jurors that prevents unfair trials. Within the system, there are certain rights given to the defendant during the juror selection process. These rights include allowing a defendant to dismiss unfair potential jurors from the jury. The same rights are given to the judge and prosecution team, meaning that both the judge and the prosecutor can also dismiss potential jurors they believe to be biased.
The goal of the juror selection process is to create a fair jury that will only take into account the evidence presented at trial while making important decisions.
Jury Pool Representative of the Community
To pick a fair jury, there must be a fair jury pool. The jury pool (also known as a venire) is the collection of potential jurors that are assembled together for jury duty. This is the group that is “summoned” to the courthouse, and is usually chosen via voter-registration lists.
This jury pool is composed of a fair cross-section of the community. While the jury pool does not need to exactly match the makeup of a community, it must be representative of the community, meaning that it cannot intentionally exclude groups. It also cannot be based on race, gender, or religion. Examples of distinct community groups include:
- Native Americans
A jury pool must be selected randomly from all potential jurors.
Voir Dire Questioning Potential Jurors
A jury pool is formed and potential jurors are summoned to the courthouse on a particular day and time. From this pool, jurors are called to individual courtrooms where they will be questioned by the prosecution and defense teams so that it cane be determined if the potential juror will be impartial. The process of questioning the jurors to determine any potential biases is called “voir dire.”
During voir dire, potential jurors are interviewed to determine if there are biases that would prevent them from being impartial for the criminal trial. If an attorney chooses to excuse a potential juror, he or she must use a challenge. This challenge is a request to disqualify an individual from the jury.
When a request to dismiss a potential juror is based on a specific and stated reason, the request to dismiss is called a challenge for cause. The reason is usually because the individual has a potential or actual bias. Examples of reasons to challenge for cause include the following:
- Exposure to negative pretrial publicity
- Connection to law enforcement or the defendant
- Victim in a similar case
- Accidental exposure to the defendant while he was in custody
Attorneys usually are given unlimited challenges for cause. A court may also choose to dismiss a potential juror for cause without a challenge from an attorney.
Jurors can also be dismissed without stating a reason. This is called a peremptory challenge, and it allows an attorney to dismiss a potentially biased juror based on the attorney’s experience and gut feeling. The amount of peremptory challenges an attorney is able to use are typically limited in criminal cases.
An attorney is not legally able to request to dismiss a group of potential jurors based on a particular characteristic (such as race, ethnicity, and gender) that distinguishes them from others. These characteristics include race, ethnicity and gender. This rule does not apply to challenges based on age or on mental and physical disabilities.
After a jury is selected, alternate jurors are often selected. Alternate jurors are selected in the case that a regular juror might need to be replaced if they are unable to perform their jury duties. Alternate jurors are questioned and selected in the same manner as the regular jurors.
How Much Input Does a Defendant Have?
While your criminal defense attorney will make the ultimate decision in keeping or excusing potential jurors, as a defendant, you will be able to have some input during the jury selection process.
An attorney will handle all of the questioning during the voir dire process, and a defendant is not allowed to address the potential jurors. The only exception to this is if the defendant has elected to represent himself or herself.
Before a defendant is allowed to proceed without legal representation, the judge takes a Faretta waiver. During this process, the defendant is informed that he or she won’t get any special breaks because he chooses to represent himself. He or she will be required to observe all rules of evidence and other court rules, and he or she will be facing an experienced prosecutor.
It is never advised that a defendant represents himself or herself, and if you have been accused of a crime, you should immediately contact a criminal defense attorney.
The Role of a Criminal Defense Lawyer
Criminal law covers a wide variety of topics, including DUI defense, petty theft, drug crimes, grand theft, and sex crimes just to name a few. If you have been accused of any form of crime, it is always advised that you work with a criminal law attorney like the ones at Ferragut Law Firm.
Because the average person does not have an understanding of the criminal justice process, which comprises a number of complex state and federal laws, it’s always advised that you work with a criminal defense lawyer.
Criminal defense lawyers assist clients as their case moves through the criminal justice process, from pre-trial and through the conclusion of the trial proceedings. In some cases, when a client suspects that they might be charged with a crime a client will make the decision to retain a lawyer before they have even been charged. If you have been involved in a criminal incident and have suspicions that you might need a lawyer, it’s best to hire one as quickly as possible as they will be able to provide you with guidance on how to proceed. The earlier an attorney is involved in a case, the more protection they can offer, and even in times ensure that a suspect does not divulge any potentially incriminating information.
A criminal defense lawyer will also be able to advise a client on if a case can even be brought against their client. In cases where there is insufficient evidence, a lawyer’s main objective will be to have the court drop the charges against a client. There are many avenues of defense that a lawyer can apply, including challenging probable cause, persuading a court to reduce or waive bail, and negotiating a plea bargain to reduce charges to a lesser crime or reduce sentencing.
The role of a criminal defense lawyer will be entirely based on the case that is presented and the type of defense that a client needs. Obtaining the help of a criminal defense lawyer early on in your case can mean the difference between guilty and not guilty.
Working with Ferragut Law Firm
Ferragut Law Firm is a top rated criminal defense law firm based in Phoenix Arizona. We are dedicated exclusively to the practice of criminal law in all state, federal, and city courts throughout the State of Arizona.
Our mission is to achieve the best possible results for our clients through hard work, attention to detail, and aggressive advocacy, while maintaining the highest level of professionalism, integrity, and ethical standards.
We are committed to providing the most aggressive, professional, and effective representation for our clients accused of crimes to ensure that their legal rights are protected and that the best possible results are achieved. Contact us to discuss the details of your case.
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2 North Central Avenue, Suite #1125
Phoenix, Arizona 85004