What is a Jury Questionnaire?

J.M. Densing

A jury questionnaire is a written survey given to potential trial jurors to gather information about them to decide if they would be appropriate for a particular case. These questionnaires are used in a variety of cases in both criminal and civil court as an aid in the selection of a jury with balanced demographics and other factors. In general, the questionnaire is designed to detect potential issues with juror bias or impartiality. Questions are usually asked about a range of topics that may relate to the case including past experiences with the judicial system and about the potential juror's beliefs and opinions.

Some people regard the use of the juror questionnaire as intrusive and unnecessary.
Some people regard the use of the juror questionnaire as intrusive and unnecessary.

Juries need to be carefully selected, and the jury questionnaire is an important part of this process. It's used to gather a wealth of information about potential jurors which assists the selection process. This information is reviewed by attorneys on both sides of the case to choose preferred jurors and eliminate unsuitable ones. Jurors can be eliminated for a variety of reasons including physical limitations or hardship. A juror may also be rejected from service if the jury questionnaire indicates certain biases that may make it impossible for a juror to be impartial, if the juror personally knows individuals involved with in case, or if the juror has already formed opinions about the case based on pretrial publicity.

The juror questionnaire is used to select fair and impartial jurors.
The juror questionnaire is used to select fair and impartial jurors.

Some believe that an ideal jury has a balance of genders, educational levels and ethnicities. The typical jury questionnaire includes questions about a potential juror's age, gender, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, education and occupation. It may also ask about marital status, if the juror has children, and other career or lifestyle factors that may relate to the case. In general, the goal is a variety of persons with differing levels of education, income, and family lifestyles, although this is not always easy to achieve depending the jury pool in a given jurisdiction.

Perhaps the most important use of the jury questionnaire is to weed out potential jurors who may be unable to be impartial when reaching a verdict. This can be due to a multitude of factors such as previous life experiences, biases, deeply held beliefs, and ingrained opinions. Part of the jury questionnaire is custom designed to look for specific beliefs and opinions that could be relevant to the case as well as biases for or against groups or institutions. Questions also address previous experiences with the judicial system to make sure that this won't affect a juror's ability to serve. It's also important to ensure that the jurors have no prior knowledge of the case that has caused them to form opinions about it before hearing the evidence.

A jury is a group of citizens who are tasked with determining whether an accused party is guilty or not guilty.
A jury is a group of citizens who are tasked with determining whether an accused party is guilty or not guilty.

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