Jury Selection If you’re ever accused of a crime in the United States or involved in a lawsuit, you have a constitutional right to a trial by an impartial jury from your commu- nity. This right is considered essential to doing justice within a democracy. Yet whenever a controversial verdict is reached in a high-profile case, people, right or wrong, blame the 12 individuals who constituted the jury. That’s why it is important to know how juries are selected.
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Jury selection is a three-stage process. First, the court uses voter registration lists, telephone directories, and other sources to compile a master list of eligible citizens who live in the community. Second, so that a representative sample can be obtained, a certain number of people from the list are randomly drawn and summoned for duty. If you’ve ever been called, you know what happens next. Before people who appear in court are placed on a jury, they are subject to what is known as voir dire, a pretrial interview in which the judge and lawyers ques- tion the prospective jurors for signs of bias. If someone knows one of the parties, has an interest in the outcome of the case, or has already formed an opinion, the judge will excuse that person “for cause.” In fact, if it can be proven that an entire community is biased, perhaps because of pretrial publicity, then the trial might be postponed or moved to another location.