Every American that has registered to vote or has a drivers license can at any time be called to serve on a jury. There are mixed feelings about being called for duty. Some Americans see it as a nuisance that will disrupt their lives. Others see it as an opportunity to serve their country. Being called to serve, and actually serving is two different matters. A jury is ultimately selected by the judge, prosecutor and defending attorney. How they are they picked? How are they released? Maybe this paper will answer a few of these questions.
The selection of a jury is the process that occurs right before the actual trial, and after the trial initiation and the arraignment and plea. Only about 10 percent of actual arraignments see an actual trial, because 90 percent of cases that are preparing for trial end up accepting a plea bargain (Schmalleher, 2009). Any one who is accused of a crime and will stand trial is allowed by the Sixth Amendment the right to an impartial jury. For a jury to be impartial, it is not always true that they have no prior knowledge of the case at all.
In the case of a highly publicized trial, it can be almost impossible to find 12 people who know nothing about the case at hand or the accused. Some jurors will be excused based on how suitable they are judged to be for the case, and some may be excused because of reasons beyond their control (Schmalleger, 2009). I have been called to serve jury duty one time in my life. At the time I had 2 small children at home, one of them just being diagnosed with the Swine Flu 2 days prior. When I told the judge this, he told me not to touch anyone on the way out of courtroom, and wished my child well.
It was not that I didn’t want to serve; I felt my place was with my child, and was glad the judge agreed. After the judge has done his initial weeding out of people who have been called to serve within 2 years, people who have moved out of the jurisdiction area, elderly over the age of 70 who wish not to serve, and any other items he feels may hinder a jury; then the people that are left now get to participate in actual jury selection. These people are questioned by both the prosecutor and the defense attorney. This process is called the “voir dire”, which basically means to speak the truth.
During this process the potential jurors are questioned about a number of things, from their religious practices to things that have happened to them. The reason for these open ended questions is to see if the juror will be biased against the accused, or may have beliefs that will harm a case (Hill, 2005). The attorneys can strike a potential juror using one of three challenges. These are challenges to the array, challenges for the cause, and preemptory challenges. The challenge to the array is a challenge of the entire jury pool presented for jury selection.
This is when usually the defense attorney feels that none of the members on the jury are fit to serve. For some reason they feel the selection is not a true representation of the community or that every one of them is in some way biased. This challenge is heard before the selection of the jury begins by the judge (Schmallenger, 2009). A challenge for the cause is unlimited to both the attorneys. There can be many different bases for challenge for the cause, but there are 3 basic causes for this type of challenge.
They are that the potential juror knows the judge, defendant, or one of the lawyers in the case. That it was discovered during voir dire that the person has a preconceived notion that can harm their ability to fairly judge the case before them. The third is that they have life experiences that can be shown to cause bias on a case (American Judicature Society, 2009). The third type of challenge is the most controversial challenge, the preemptory challenge. This challenge is where the attorneys have a preset number of challenges that they can just remove a potential juror and give no reason at all.
This is used on jurors that the attorneys feel that will not be sympathetic to their case, either way (American Judicature Society, 2009). During the case of Scott Peterson, the jury selection took three months. The pool started with over a thousand people, and through the extensive questionnaires and further questioning during voir dire, they finally narrowed the jury down to six men and six women, along with 6 alternates. 3 of these alternates were actually used to replace jury members, including the foreman (findlaci2003. us, 2005).
The Peterson case was a highly publicized case that involved the murder of Peterson’s wife, and unborn child. The trial was said to last up to six months, but actually lasted about five, from June to November 12, 2004 when the jury convicted Peterson of first degree murder and their unborn son of second degree murder (Peterson trial. info, 2010). Among the jurors was one African American woman, three white men, four white women, one mother of four with pink hair, a woman of either white or Latino heritage, and three men who were not identified as any certain race.
One of these persons on the jury actually knew of Scott and Laci Peterson. His future son-in-law worked for the couple for about six weeks at The Shack, the restaurant the couple owned. This individual now owns this same restaurant. This man started out as an alternate (findlaci2003. us, 2004). This person being on the jury can show just how hard it is to actually find enough people who do not know the accused, or know of the accused. To be selected for jury duty is an honor for every American. It is truly a shame that some of them do not feel this same way.
True, I did not get to serve when my name was picked because of unforeseen circumstances, but that did not mean I would have been ready and willing to serve if I needed to. My name may or may not get called again; it’s the luck of the draw. When I searched this topic of jury duty on the internet, I was truly surprised of the number of pages dedicated to how to get out of jury duty. Americans should be proud and happy to be able to contribute to the justice system even though they aren’t a lawyer or a judge. It actually made me feel quite sad to see these pages.
Works Cited Jury Selection (2009). American Judicature Society. Retrieved May 9, 2010, from http://www. ajs. org/jc/juries/jc_whoserves_selection. asp Meet the Jury for Scott Peterson (2005, June 4). Find Laci 2003. Retrieved May 9, 2010, from http://www. findlaci2003. us/jurorsFinal-6men-6women. html Schmalleger, F (2009). Criminal Justice Today. Upper Saddle River, New Jersey: Pearson Prentice Hall. Scott Peterson Trial Summary (2010). Peterson Trial. info. Retrieved May 9, 2010, from http://petersontrial. info/scott-peterson-summary. php.