Jury selection is the process by which jurors are selected for a trial by jury case to be held in a court. There are three main steps in the jury selection process. The transition between the steps is not always clear because many times the steps overlap. The process differs slightly from country to country and sometimes from judge to judge. However, many of the basic principles that surround the procedure are similar, if not the same.
Jury selection in most countries starts with voir dire, which is the formal questioning of potential members of the jury after they have filled out a juror questionnaire. Lawyers on both sides of a case are allowed to ask a set of questions to each prospective juror, which will give them insight into where biases of the potential juror may be. A lawyer’s ultimate goal during the jury selection process is to have jurors who are impartial and unbiased. Many lawyers strive to seat jurors who are sympathetic to their cause.
The final two parts of the jury selection process may come during or after voir dire. First, the prosecution or defense lawyer may challenge any of the potential jurors that they feel should not sit on the jury for a specific reason. For example, if the defendant is accused of rape, the defense attorney may not want a juror who has been raped because she may be biased and never find the defendant not guilty.
Second, the prosecution and defense have the opportunity to make peremptory challenges. They may remove a potential juror for no reason at all. Depending on the court, there may be a certain number of peremptory challenges offered to the prosecution and defense. When potential jurors are removed using a peremptory challenge, there is no required disclosure of reasoning.
For cases that may have a death penalty in localities that subscribe to capital punishment, potential jurors are questioned on their beliefs about the death penalty. If potential jurors are against the death penalty they are automatically removed from the pool. A juror that disapproves of the death penalty in a murder case could potentially cause a mistrial because the jury would never come to agreement if the accused was guilty.
It is important to remember that although voir dire, challenges of cause and peremptory challenges are part of the jury selection process, they are also ways for the justice system of a country to guarantee a fair trial. In countries that practice common law, most defendants are guaranteed an impartial trial by jury by their constitutions.