Welcome back to our series: Basic information on trials and courtrooms. Since the beginning of this series, we’ve discussed courtroom positions and personnel, the way criminal cases work, steps in a courtroom trial, and the steps in a criminal case. Particularly in the last blog, we reviewed some of what happens before the trial begins. For example, arraignments and pre-trial hearings. We’ll be doing the same for this post. We’ll look at jury selection process in the New Jersey court system.
Why a New Jersey Jury Selection Process?
First, why is jury selection even a thing? Why does it exist? Couldn’t the court just select people randomly? Thankfully, no. According to the Sixth Amendment of the US Constitution, you have the right to “a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime [was] committed.” However, this right has an even older origin, coming from the Magna Carta in 1215. This right ensures that the verdict isn’t decided by random people, people from a completely different walk of life, or people who live in a totally different region than the defendant, but by people like the defendant. This is what the Constitution means by “impartial.”
Furthermore, in New Jersey, thanks to Apprendi v. New Jersey (2004), you have the right to a jury trial, not only to determine your guilt or innocence, but also to determine “any fact that increases the penalty for a crime beyond the prescribed statutory maximum.”
How the New Jersey Jury Selection Process Works
Second, let’s review the steps for jury selection in New Jersey. Fortunately, it works mostly the same way in just about every state.
- Panel created – The court pools together random local citizens.
- Judge questioning – The judge asks potential jurors questions to see if they stand qualified to serve on the jury. For example, if you have a serious surgery coming up, the judge will dismiss you.
- Prosecution and defense questioning – The prosecution and defense take turns asking potential jurors questions about their backgrounds to discover potential biases, characteristics, patterns of thinking, etc.
- Challenges for Cause – The lawyers on both sides argue why any particular juror should be dismissed, usually due to either actual bias or implied bias.
- Peremptory Challenges – The defense might want to dismiss a potential juror simply because they think the juror will favor the prosecution’s case, and vice versa. In New Jersey, the defense can make 5 peremptory challenges, or between 10-20 depending on the case. The prosecution can also make 5 peremptory challenges, or 6-12 depending on the case.
- Striking the Jury – After listing the challenges, the prosecution and defense strike potential members with the judge’s approval.
- Placement – Once the jury members are selected, they are sworn in.
Count on Mark Catanzaro
Finally, if you want a New Jersey attorney who can use the jury selection process in your favor, then hire Mark Catanzaro! With over 30 years of experience, he can make the law work for you. Contact him today!