Criminal defense attorney

How Is a Jury Picked for a Criminal Case in Tennessee?

Criminal defense attorneyIf you are currently facing criminal charges in the State of Tennessee you will eventually need to decide, along with the advice and guidance of your Tennessee criminal defense attorney, whether to accept a plea agreement or take your case to trial. As the defendant in a criminal prosecution you have an absolute right to take your case to a jury trial wherein the jury will decide your fate. There are a number of factors that should go into making such an important decision; however, before you and your attorney evaluate those factors as they apply to your case you should make sure you have a clear understanding of who will be deciding your fate. The Constitution of the United States says you have a right to a “jury of your peers.” What exactly does that mean and how is a jury picked for a criminal case in Tennessee?

The United States operates under a federalist form of government, meaning we have a strong central government (federal government) as well as numerous smaller governments (state governments). Both the federal government and the individual state governments have the power to enact and enforce laws; however, no law may violate the Constitution. Many of your most important rights can be found in the first ten amendments to the Constitution, collectively known as the “Bill of Rights.” Your right to a trial by jury, for example, 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)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.

Although there are variations among the courts with regard to how the next phase of the jury selection process, known as “voir dire” is handled, it will occur something like this. On the day of the trial, both the prosecution and the defense will have jury questionnaires providing basic information about each prospective juror. An initial group of prospective jurors will be brought into the courtroom at which time both the prosecution and the defense will be given the opportunity to ask questions of the individuals. The judge will also likely question the individuals. The purpose of the questioning is to determine if anyone should be disqualified for cause as well as for both sides to decide if they wish to “strike” a prospective juror using a peremptory challenge. A removal for cause requires a showing that the juror is ineligible to serve because of things such as bias or a relationship with a party to the case. Peremptory challenges allow each side to strike a specific number of prospective jurors for any reason as long as it is not discriminatory in nature. This is your chance to remove people from the jury whom you believe will not vote in your favor. This process will continue to both sides are out a peremptory challenges. The individuals remaining on the jury will become the permanent jury. The number of people on the permanent jury will depend on whether you are charged with a felony or a misdemeanor. Likewise, the number of peremptory challenges each side has will be directly related to the severity level of the offense.

If you are currently facing criminal charges in the State of Tennessee, it is in your best interest to consult with the experienced Tennessee criminal defense attorneys at Bennett, Michael & Hornsby. Contact the team today by calling 615-898-1560 to schedule your appointment.



Dinah Michael