After being charged with a crime, your attorney will begin preparing for your trial. This trial will most likely be heard by a jury, and one of the tasks your criminal attorney will prepare for is jury selection. This is a process called voir dire and it allows your attorney to select the best jurors for your case. As you get ready to go to court for the start of your trial, here are three things you should know about this process.
Courts Look for Biases
The main goal of jury selection is to find a group of jurors that will give the defendant a fair trial. In criminal cases, a defendant is innocent until proven guilty. If the jurors have any type of bias against the defendant, they may not be able to give him or her a fair trial. This is why the judge and attorneys are free to ask questions, and a lot of the questions asked will relate to details about the crime.
For example, if you are accused of physically-abusing your spouse, your attorney may dismiss jurors that:
- Have been abused themselves
- Have had loved ones in abusive relationships
- Are too friendly with police officers
- Seem too emotional or soft
On the other hand, the prosecution will most likely dismiss jurors that:
- Have had prior charges relating to violence
- Appear to be course or abrasive
- Have been witnesses for the defense in prior court cases
The judge will ask the jurors if they will have trouble keeping their biases out of the ruling in the case. If jurors admit that they cannot do this, they will be dismissed.
You Have a Say
As you can imagine, jury selection is not a quick event; it takes time. The court will begin by selecting 14 jurors. The judge will begin asking them questions, the prosecution will be next, and your criminal lawyer will be last.
As this is occurring, you should have a notebook and pen in front of you. If you see anyone on the jury panel that you know or that you think may have a bias against you, let your attorney know by writing it on the paper. Your attorney wants you to win the case and will be willing to take any suggestions or opinions you have into consideration.
When jurors are dismissed, the court will call different potential jurors to the stand and the process will repeat. This will occur until there are at least 12 jurors selected for the case, and the court may also appoint between one to six alternates.
Criminal Lawyers Fight for Presumption of Innocence
Because of the way the justice system works in the U.S., your lawyer will most likely fight for you on the basis of presumption of innocence. This is a legal phrase that implies that a court cannot convict a person of a crime unless they know beyond a shadow of a doubt that the person committed the crime. If there is any evidence that proves that the defendant might not have committed the crime in question, the jury cannot legally produce a verdict of guilty.
Criminal lawyers often use this defense by planting seeds of questions in the minds of the jurors. Your criminal lawyer will remind the jury that they cannot convict if they are not 100% certain that you committed this crime. Your attorney does not have to prove you are innocent; he or she only needs to prove that the prosecution does not have enough evidence.
Preparing for trial can be overwhelming, but it is better to know what to expect than to walk into the courtroom blinded. Choosing a good criminal attorney is the best thing you can do if you want the court to dismiss your charges.