The jury selection process is not a short one. However, nearly every American is familiar with the first step of the process, the juror summons. This written notice is received by all potential jurors, selected at random from the American adult population. This first step is the same for all types of court cases, criminal and civil. Each potential juror receives information on where to report and when, unless they can supply a justifiable reason for being unable to do so.
Once they have reported, potential jurors wait to be called. Many are likely to leave the process without having ever been formally questioned. After all, jurors’ summons are sent to far more individuals than will be needed for the case load of the court. This ensures that the attorneys have a wide selection to choose from.
Juror selection begins with a process known in the courts as ‘voir dire’. The goal of the selection process is to find a jury that is mutually accepted by the plaintiff and the defendant, which further promises a fair trial. Criminal cases require a twelve-person jury, whereas civil cases and those involving a misdemeanor charge generally feature only six jurors. The judge plays a role in the jury selection, however that presence is much greater in criminal cases.
Questioning takes place as prospective jurors are called in. Some are immediately turned away for knowing too much about the case already or for having views that would taint their ability to remain neutral while listening to the testimony. With such justifiable reason, either attorney can turn the person away. However, they also reserve a certain number of challenges that can be used to remove otherwise suitable candidates from the jurors stand, without necessary cause. This process can take twenty-four hours or more with the final jury members wielding a great deal of power in the ultimate lawsuit.
Once the jury is seated, attorneys are supposed to refrain from speaking with jury members. In fact, by law, they are ordered to stay clear of those individuals until the case is closed.