About the Jury
A jury is usually a group of 12 people chosen to hear case-evidence. Jury selection is one crucial part of all criminal trials. The jury is held responsible for declaring the guilt or innocence of any defendant, and as such, they must be fair and impartial. For serving on a federal jury, you must be: a United States citizen, over 18 years old, and a resident of the jurisdiction being served, physically and mentally capable of performing duties, willing to serve for the trial period, and free from any criminal justice system supervision, such as parole or probation, with no prior felony convictions, and able to speak English.
Jury Selection Process
The Selection of Prospective Jurors
The first step is the selection of prospective jurors by randomly choosing names from a prepared list of eligible jurors. In some cases, the judge could prefer certain jurors, with relevant skills or knowledge or experience.
The Questioning of Potential Jurors
Once prospective jurors are selected, questioning by the attorneys begins, to determine impartial jurors, without biases that could influence decision-making. The questions asked during voir dire vary depending on the case, but assess the juror’s background, education, employment, and family members. The attorneys may ask potential jurors about opinions on the case or how the case could be resolved.
The Selection of the Jury
After potential jurors are questioned, the judge decides on jury composition, by selecting 6-12 least biased jurors unlikely to be influenced by extraneous factors, as per the case. After selection, jury members select a foreperson to represent them, before the trial begins, to serve as jury spokesman and as informal leader.
Time Taken for Trial take and Time for Jury selection
The average trial takes two or three days but could last weeks or months. Trial length varies as per complexity of the case, number of witnesses, and whether an attorney represents the defendant. With many witnesses or if evidence is complicated, the trial lasts longer and also depends on how each side argues. If one side rests their case quickly, a shorter trial is possible.
Determining the Verdict
The jury discusses the case after all evidence is presented, and attorneys make closing arguments. During deliberations, the members of the jury discusses the case-facts to reach a majority decision.
Suppose The Jury Cannot Reach A Decision?
If the jury fails to reach a decision, they continue deliberations, or may be dismissed. This is referred to as a hung jury and happens in 5-10% of criminal cases. If a hung jury happens, then the case is retried.
Jury Nullification Leads to Longer Trials
Jury nullification leads to extended trials if the jury acquits the defendant even when they believe the defendant is guilty. This happens if the jury opines that the law is unjust or was not violated in this specific case.
The Bottom Line
Just how long should a jury selection take? The process of selecting jurors is lengthy and drawn out as having a diverse and qualified jury to represent the community for fairly judging the defendant, is important. Jury selection is an important stage in any trial, as jurors decide the verdict! After hearing the entire evidence, discussing, and considering various options, jurors must arrive at an unanimous decision to find the defendant innocent or guilty.