Murfreesboro criminal defense attorney

How Is a Jury Selected in Tennessee?

If you have been charged with a criminal offense in the United States, you have the right to have a jury determine whether the prosecution has presented sufficient evidence to prove that you are guilty beyond a reasonable doubt of the offense(s) for which you were charged. If you decide to exercise that right, you will have to go through the process of selecting a jury before the trial begins. To prepare you, a Murfreesboro criminal defense lawyer at Bennett | Michael | Hornsby explains how a jury isMurfreesboro criminal defense attorney selected in Tennessee.

Your Right to a Trial by Jury

The U.S. Constitution guarantees every defendant certain rights and privileges, most of which are enumerated in the first ten Amendments to the Constitution, collectively known as the “Bill of Rights.” Your right to a trial by jury can be found in the 6th Amendment, reading 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)

Who Is Qualified to Serve on a Jury in Tennessee?

After the Clerk’s Office is informed that a defendant has requested a trial by jury, the process of jury selection begins. A list of names is randomly drawn from a master computer-generated list of individuals with driver’s licenses. These prospective jurors must meet the following requirements:

  • Be a United States citizen and a resident of the county in which you are summoned.
  • Be at least 18 years old.
  • Have been a resident of Rutherford County for at least 12 months.
  • Have not served as a juror in the previous twenty-four (24) months.
  • Have not been convicted of perjury, subornation of perjury, a felony, or any infamous offense.

Qualified prospective jurors are issued a summons instructing them to appear at a specified date and location. 

What Happens during Jury Selection?

The formal name for the process of jury selection is “voir dire.” Either prior to arriving at the courthouse or shortly thereafter, prospective jurors are typically asked to complete a juror questionnaire that covers basic information like occupation, education, and any potential connections to any individuals involved in the case. 

Next, the judge, prosecuting attorney, and defense attorney have the opportunity to pose questions to the prospective jurors. These questions are used to gather information that could lead to a challenge for cause.  A challenge for cause means there is a legal reason that would prevent the prospective juror from serving on the jury, such as exhibiting bias or having prior knowledge of the case or the parties. The side challenging a juror for cause must convince the judge that excusing the juror is required based on the issue raised. 

Questions are also asked of the prospective jurors to try and determine how an individual thinks to determine if they should remain on the jury. Both sides are looking for specific traits in a prospective juror. Toward that end, a wide range of questions may be asked with some seeming wholly unrelated to the judicial proceedings. Ultimately, both sides are trying to decide whether to excuse a potential juror using one of their limited “peremptory challenges.”

In the State of Tennessee, each side is granted eight peremptory challenges in a felony trial. These challenges permit the exclusion of a juror without providing a specific reason as long as the juror is not being excluded on the basis of discrimination. As prospective jurors are excused, others are brought in for consideration, and the questioning process continues until both sides have exhausted their challenges. Ultimately, the remaining 12 jurors (and often an alternate) are selected to constitute the final jury. The final jury will listen to the entire prosecution and decide the defendant’s fate.

Contact a Murfreesboro Criminal Defense Lawyer 

If you have additional questions or concerns about how a jury is slected in Tennessee, consult with an experienced Murfreesboro criminal defense lawyer at Bennett | Michael | Hornsby as soon as possible. Contact the team today by calling 615-898-1560 to schedule your free appointment.


Stan Bennett