Friday, October 23, 2009

From 60 to 12 - jury picking

So, everyone knows what a jury trial is.

It's a trial.

With a jury.


But how do those twelve lucky people get picked? Why them?

Glad you asked. Here's how it works:

Sixty people get notices in the mail saying they are required for jury service. They scratch their heads for a minute, think "Me? Again?" then follow the instructions and enter a few details about themselves online and then start asking their boss for that week off and wondering what the heck they're supposed to wear for jury duty.

On the appointed day, they show up to the courthouse and shuffle into the courtroom, looking slightly lost but grateful for the bailiff who tells them where to sit and what their juror number is. They eye the two tables of lawyers and, they correctly assume, one defendant, and wait.

The judge comes in and explains the system and everyone sits there and thinks, "Wow, he's a judge? He seems so nice." The longer he (or she) talks, the nicer he (or she) seems, and the more comfortable the jurors get. And by "comfortable" I mean "sleepy."

When the judge is done, the prosecutor and then the defense lawyer get a chance to talk. They are supposed to talk WITH jurors, not at them, but it's very interesting how some jury panels are chatty as can be, and others are not. Like lawyers, I suppose.

What do they talk about? Well, plenty but here's a few of the essentials: how a trial works, who the participants are, the rights of the defendant, and the elements of the charged crime.

Really, the bottom line and what the lawyers are trying to do, is find twelve people who will be fair. Sure, coming into the trial they may have a few preconceived biases or perhaps they lean slightly one way or the other with regard to defense/prosecution. After all, we're human and carry these biases with us. But what we ask, what the law asks, is that each juror puts those preconceived notions on hold for the duration of the trial and wait to make up their minds until they have heard all the evidence. The end game, really is to end up with twelve people who will be fair to both the prosecution and the defense. Twelve people who will follow the law that will be given them by the judge at the of the case, and who will apply the law to the facts presented during the trial.

And twelve people who will reach a verdict.

That's all.


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