Do you ever wonder how are juries selected in courtrooms? If you’re ever charged with a crime and put on trial, this will definitely be something that you are curious about. You might also wonder about it if you file a civil lawsuit or have one filed against you. It’s more likely that you get curious about this if you receive a dreaded jury summons in the mail.
The specifics of jury selection do vary based on every jurisdiction, and given that there are federal, state, and municipal level courts, there are thousands of possible variations. However, there are many things that run rather standard across America.
In general, many courthouses know in advance how many cases they might have starting on a particular date, as hearings are scheduled in advance, sometimes by weeks or months. A pool of potential jurors is often formed up to serve several different cases. Databases are done differently in each location, but voter registration rolls, DMV records, and property tax records are often used.
Many summoned jurors never even make it into a courtroom, as plenty are picked, and last-minute settlements or plea deals are struck to avoid trials. If a case does start, then a judge has general instructions for prospective jurors. In most cases, the prosecutor or lawyer for the plaintiff asks questions of a group of jurors, followed by the defense attorney. Together, these two lawyers try to agree to a group of jurors that seem fair to both sides of a possible trial.
Some cases warrant having more than the usual 12 jurors, as there might be a number of alternates. This is done to make sure the trial proceeds even a juror gets sick, dies, or is otherwise disqualified from the case.