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How are jury members selected?

If you have been charged with a crime such as drug distribution or manufacturing, you have the right to have your story heard by a jury of your peers. However, you may not know that much about jury selection except from watching movies or crime shows.

The American Bar Association states that the selection of jury members can have a direct impact on the outcome of your case. Therefore, it is important that your attorney takes the time to ask questions to determine if a person is leaning one way or the other. For example, if you are of a specific race or culture, questions may center around the person’s feelings toward people of that background in general. Questions could also concern a person’s previous exposure to the criminal charge. For instance, a person who lost a child due to a drug overdose may have strong emotions about drug charges and could be influenced by those emotions.

In addition to the questioning of potential members, your attorney can request that a person be omitted as a member of the jury if that person is unlikely to vote in your favor. This can be done without your attorney having to say why the person should be removed. Likewise, the prosecutor can also make the request, which is referred to as a peremptory challenge, but the number of challenges your attorney and the prosecutor can use is limited.

After the questioning, your attorney and the prosecutor can state that for cause, the potential jury member should be omitted. In the above example concerning a parent, your attorney could point out that the parent’s personal experiences may bias them against you, thereby denying your right to a fair trial. The judge can also dismiss a potential jury member if it is discovered that the person has read about the case or written about it.

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