In the United States, a defendant in a criminal prosecution has an absolute right to resolve his or her case by presenting the case to a jury and allowing the jury to decide if the defendant is guilty or not. Making the decision to go to a jury trial is an extremely important decision and one that should only be made after a lengthy consultation with an experienced criminal defense attorney. If you are currently a defendant in a criminal prosecution in the State of Tennessee, and you are contemplating how to resolve your case, you likely have a number of questions about the jury trial process. For example, before deciding to let a jury decide your fate, you likely want to know how criminal lawyers pick a jury. Who are the people that will hold your future in their hands and how are they selected to be on the jury? Do you play a role in the selection process or does your attorney decide who will be part of the jury? These are all questions you likely want answers to before deciding how to proceed with your case.
Your Right to a Trial by Jury
As a defendant in a criminal prosecution you have a number of important rights found in the first ten amendments to the Constitution, collectively known as the “Bill of Rights.” Your right to a trial by jury is found in the 6th Amendment which reads as follows:
“In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the state and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the assistance of counsel for his defense.” (Emphasis added)
The Prospective Juror List – Where Do They Find Jurors?
In the State of Tennessee, selecting a jury begins when a group of prospective jurors are randomly selected from the list of licensed drivers over the age of 18 in the country where the trial is to be held. This group is known as the “jury pool.” Each member of the jury pool will receive a summons directing him/her to report for jury duty on a specific date and time. On that date, your trial date, a group of prospective jurors will be brought into the courtroom. Your defense attorney will likely have juror questionnaires filled out by all members of the jury pool that provide basic information about each prospective juror. The judge, prosecuting attorney, and defense attorney may then ask brief questions of the prospective jurors. If there is a legal reason why someone cannot serve on the jury a challenge for cause is made by one of the attorneys and, if the judge agrees, the individual is removed. Both sides also have a limited number of “peremptory” challenges that allow them to excuse a prospective juror for any reason (other than a discriminatory reason). The number of peremptory challenges ranges from three to 15, depending on the severity of the charges against the defendant. As a prospective juror is excused, another one is brought in and the questioning resumes. Once both sides have used all of their challenges, the individuals remaining in the courtroom become the final jury. Deciding who to excuse and who to leave on a jury is somewhat of an art form. Experienced criminal lawyers know what to look for in a prospective juror and what questions to ask to illicit the most useful information. For high profile cases, a jury consultant may even be brought on board to help choose a jury. Sometimes, however, picking a jury boils down to good old fashioned intuition on the part of an experienced attorney – which is one more reason why you want an experienced criminal defense attorney on your side.
If you have been charged with a criminal offense in the State of Tennessee, it is in your best interest to consult with the experienced Murfreesboro, Tennessee criminal defense attorneys at Bennett, Michael & Hornsby. Contact the team today by calling 615-898-1560 to schedule your appointment.