Jury Duty – The Selection Process
THE SELECTION PROCESS – PART 2 OF 4 IN OUR JURY SERIES
You show up in court on the date and time specified on your jury summons because you are a good citizen. Now what? Procedures for jury selection vary somewhat from court to court. There are some differences between state and federal court. But the basics are the same. Here is a general overview of what you can expect based on procedures in civil cases in the Maricopa County Superior Court:
First you will start out as part of a crowd. Lots, probably dozens, of people have been summoned to appear at the same time and place as you.
Second, you will probably be asked to fill out a juror questionnaire, which asks for very basic information such as your name, age and occupation. The questionnaire will be provided to the lawyers for the parties so that they can begin to make decisions about who they would/ would not like to have on the jury.
The Jury is the most important part of a case
Remember that the jury that will ultimately decide the case (called the “petit jury”) may consist of only six jurors in civil cases. Twelve jurors are required in capital cases, and eight are required in all other criminal cases. There will also be at least one alternate juror in case a juror has to be replaced.
So the court and the lawyers go through a process called voir dire. A group of potential A jurors will be brought into the courtroom at the same time. The judge will then ask more detailed questions, such as whether you know any of the lawyers, the parties or expected witnesses. The judge may ask additional questions designed to ferret out any personal biases that you might have that might affect your decision-making. The judge may allow the lawyers to ask follow-ups or additional questions. Common questions you can expect to hear include whether you’ve ever been involved in a lawsuit either as a party or a witness and whether you believe a person has a right to sue if they have been harmed. Stuff like that.
Remember that none of this is personal and is certainly not meant to embarrass you. The lawyers are simply trying to identify information that might suggest bias against, or for, their clients.
Next, the court and the lawyers go through a process of elimination. Some jurors will be excluded “for cause,” typically meaning that the information provided by the juror suggests an obvious bias for or against one of the parties. Each side is then given a certain number of peremptory challenges. They can challenge individual jurors who they believe may be biased against them. Here the lawyers and parties may simply be playing hunches based on information provided.
The process continues until you have the first seven jurors, including the alternate, who have not been challenged by either party. Then the process stops. Those seven constitute the petit jury – the jury that will decide the case. The remaining potential jurors are excused, and the show begins.
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