If you’ve ever watched a law or criminal justice-based television show, you’ve likely seen juries witnessing a trial and possibly even debating over the verdict. Movies such as 12 Angry Men prominently feature the important roles that jury members have. Likewise, large-scale, highly publicized trials like the O.J. Simpson trial and others prominently feature jury members who hold the futures of the defendants in their hands.
With that being said, not many American citizens actually understand the jury system. In this article, we will explore the role of the jury, how juries are chosen and who qualifies to serve on a jury at any given time.
Who qualifies for jury service?
In order to qualify legally for jury service in a United States Court system, individuals must meet certain requirements. Namely, individuals who might serve on a jury must be at least 18 years old and US citizens.
Court cases are brought to court in specific judicial districts. Generally speaking, this is the district where the crime or situation occurred. For this reason, individuals who may qualify for jury service must have resided in that same judicial district for at least one year. This is the second requirement for serving on a jury. The goal of this requirement is to have a literal “jury of your peers” to try you and hear your case in court. Having out-of-district jury members might give a different, less honest outcome.
In addition to the above, but so during those last speak English proficiently. In particular, they must be able to satisfactorily complete a form for juror qualification. The individuals must be healthy and have no disqualifying physical or mental conditions.
Individuals must also have never been convicted of a felony unless civil rights were then restored legally. Likewise, at the time of trial, potential members cannot be subject to felony charges that may be punishable by being put in prison for over a year.
These are requirements are for regular United States citizens. But there are also several groups of citizens in the U.S. that are completely exempt from federal jury service. They cannot serve on juries.
First, police department and fire fighting team professionals are exempt. Second, those who are members of active duty Armed Forces of any type are exempt. Third and finally, any type of public officers are exempt from jury service. This latter group includes members of local, state or federal government who are working full time and considered public officers.
None of the above three groups can serve on juries even if they want to. They are effectively barred from jury service.
How are juries chosen?
The process of jury selection takes place before the trial and can last for weeks. Again, it is local community members in the district where the trial will be held that are chosen from for jury duty. The first list or jury pool is taken from driver’s license or state ID renewals and voter registration lists. Random summons are mailed to the initial pool.
A group of these prospective jurors will sit in the jury box of the courtroom, and they will be questioned by the attorneys and judges that will be working the case. general questions will be asked. For example, if the case is up for capital punishment, it is important that no jury members in the final selection be out right against the death penalty as this would skew their final decision on the case. Other important questions are asked by the attorneys and judges, and some attorneys may decide to mount a challenge for cause so that certain jury members cannot be a part of the finance final jury or group. Finally, a jury is selected and empaneled.
The final group of jurors that are selected will hear all of the arguments in the case at hand. If you have a job but need to serve on a jury, you must be excused from your job for the duration of the case. That is the law.
During the case, jurors are prohibited from talking about the case outside of the juror group until the case is over. For some juries, cases may last months, which can be extremely trying and difficult. But it is important to note that serving on a jury is a civic duty, and if you are called upon, it is an important role to fulfill if you’re able.