With so much on the line in your criminal case, you need to be prepared to aggressively defend yourself from the get-go. This means knowing your rights when talking to the police and knowing the proper way to plead your case and negotiate on a plea deal.
If your case is heading to trial, there’s another aspect that you need to pay attention to that others often overlook: jury selection.
The importance of jury selection
Jury selection is important for a number of reasons. The most important reason is that every juror brings their own set of biases and lived experiences to the courtroom. Although jurors are supposed to leave any preconceived notions at the door, they are, after all, human, and the likelihood that they can prevent their biases from playing a role in their decision-making is minimal. Therefore, you want to make sure that your jury is going to give you a fair and unbiased assessment of your case. Otherwise, you may end up convicted just because of someone’s personally held belief or some experience they’ve had that clouds their judgment.
Ways to control jury selection
Fortunately, the criminal trial process gives you the opportunity to have a say in jury selection. To start, the judge and attorneys on the case have the opportunity to ask potential jurors questions. This allows you to delve into each potential juror’s personal beliefs, experiences, and knowledge of the case. This assists you in identifying potential conflicts and biases that could negatively impact your case.
For cause challenges
If during jury selection you believe that a potential juror is unfit to serve on the jury, then you can request that that individual be removed from the jury pool. Before a court will grant that request, though, you’ll have to show that you have good cause for removing the potential juror. Therefore, you’ll need to be able to articulate why you think the individual in question is unfit to serve on the jury. This may include evidence drawn out during questioning that shows a potential juror’s bias or their inability to apply the law in an impartial fashion. There is an exception to for cause challenges, though: the peremptory challenge.
While you have a significant ability to argue removals for cause, you’re limited in the number of peremptory challenges that you can make. These challenges allow you to remove a qualified potential juror simply because you believe that he or she will be favorable to the other side. You normally don’t have to specify your reasons for requesting removal of a potential juror when you’re using a peremptory challenge, but you’re disallowed from using race or class as a basis for removal. If you’re caught violating that rule, then you and your case might be in trouble.
Finalizing the jury
Once all challenges are made and ruled upon by the judge, you should be left with the requisite number of individuals for your jury. If, however, the challenges remove too many jurors, then another jury pool may be subpoenaed, or a mistrial may be declared and the process will start over again.
Navigate your criminal case with competence
There are a lot of legal nuances to a criminal trial, but you have to devote the appropriate amount of attention to each of them. If you don’t, then you run the risk of being convicted for a reason that could have been avoided. Don’t let that happen to you. Instead, think about how you can best build and present your criminal defense so that your rights and your future are protected as fully as possible. If you’d like assistance in that regard, then you may want to consider discussing the specifics of your case with an experienced criminal defense legal team.