The second step of a criminal trial, jury selection, is a very important part of the process. The right to trial by impartial jury is provided by the Sixth Amendment. Prosecutors and defense attorneys try to ensure the jury is impartial by asking them several questions, such as if they are opposed to the death penalty, do they have any knowledge of the case they are to sit on and if so do they have any preconceived notions of the defendant’s innocence or guilt, etc. This questioning is called voir dire examination (Schmalleger, 2011).
Either the defense or prosecution can issue a challenge for three reasons, the first is if they feel the entire jury pool is either biased or not truly representative of the community as a whole. This challenge is called a challenge to the array, and is issued before the selection begins. The second challenge would be a challenge for cause which is used when an attorney feels a specific juror cannot be impartial. A peremptory challenge is the last type and is used to remove a juror without disclosing the reason. Each state is different in the amount of peremptory challenges allowed by each side.
There are several issues that arise when going through the jury selection process. Such challenges are things like jurors who try to get out of jury duty on purpose because they feel it is a burden. If it is a highly publicized case, it may be difficult to find a pool of jurors that have not followed the case and/or have already decided the person’s guilt based on the news. Another issue is when a jury needs to be sequestered for long periods of time when they go to deliberations they may be more apt to hastily decide just to get home to their families.
In the criminal trial of Reinaldo Rivera, who was found guilty of fourteen counts including murder, rape, and sodomy, the jury selection process began on Monday, January 5th, 2004 (Hodson, Jury Selection to Begin in Rivera Trial, 2004) and the final jury selection was finalized on Monday, January 12th, 2004 (Hodson, Rivera Jury in Place, 2004). During that week the jury was narrowed from an original pool size of 100 down to 65 by that Friday. Those that were excluded from being a potential juror included fifteen who stated they would not be able to impose a death sentence if Rivera were found guilty, and another ten were excused because they stated they already assumed he was in fact guilty (Hodson, Lawyers Finalize Jury Pool, 2004). By the end of the weekend the jury of sixteen members was selected. Though the case was highly publicized in the area and several jurors stated they had heard or read about it they were allowed to stay on the jury because they felt they could be impartial and base their judgment solely on what was presented at trial.
Hodson, S. (2004, 01 03). Jury Selection to Begin in Rivera Trial. Retrieved 08 16, 2010, from The Augusta Chronicle: http://22.214.171.124/stories/010404/met_192-7644.000.shtml
Hodson, S. (2004, 01 09). Lawyers Finalize Jury Pool. Retrieved 08 16, 2010, from The Augusta Chronicle: http://126.96.36.199/stories/011004/met_034-3247.000.shtml
Hodson, S. (2004, 01 12). Rivera Jury in Place. Retrieved 08 16, 2010, from The Augusta Chronicle: http://188.8.131.52/stories/011304/met_192-7659.000.shtml
Schmalleger, F. (2011). Criminal Justice Today, an Introductory Text for the 21st Century. In F. Schmalleger, Criminal Justice Today, an Introductory Text for the 21st Century (11th Edition ed.). Prentice hall.