Murfreesboro criminal defense attorney

Who Will Be on My Jury If I Choose a Jury Trial in Tennessee?

If you have been charged with committing a criminal offense in Tennessee, one of the most important decisions you will need to make over the course of your case is whether to take your case to trial or accept a guilty plea. If you decide to take your case to trial, another important decision will have to be made. That decision will determine who renders the verdict in your case – a judge or a jury. To give you an idea who will decide your fate if you choose a jury, a Murfreesboro criminal defense lawyer at Bennett | Michael | Hornsby explains who will be on your jury if you choose a jury trial in Tennessee.

Your Right to a Trial by Jury

The U.S. Constitution guarantees a defendant several crucial rights during the prosecution of a criminal case. Among those rights is the right to a trial byMurfreesboro criminal defense attorney jury found in the 6th Amendment which provides that “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…”  Article I of the Tennessee Constitution mirrors its federal counterpart, stating “That the right of trial by jury shall remain inviolate, and no religious or political test shall ever be required as a qualification for jurors.”

As a defendant, your right to a trial by jury is clearly defined by both state and federal law; however, the right is yours to exercise or to waive. If you decide to accept a guilty plea agreement or prefer to have a judge decide your fate at trial, you will need to officially waive your right to a jury trial. 

Who Are the Jurors at a Tennessee Jury Trial?

Most people have watched a movie or television series depicting the selection of a jury and subsequent trial. The accuracy of those depictions, however, can vary significantly. In real life, the selection of a jury is formally referred to as “voir dire.” When the court Clerk is notified that a jury trial is scheduled, a list of potential jurors is randomly compiled from the DMV database. Those potential jurors are notified and ordered to report to court on the day of trial. After filling out juror questionnaires, a smaller group from the initial jury “pool” will be called into the courtroom to begin voir dire. 

Voir dire is an opportunity to question potential jurors and for each side to “challenge” jurors. Both the prosecution and the defense can exercise and unlimited number of challenges for cause and a limited number of “peremptory” challenges. A challenge for cause is a request that a prospective juror be dismissed because there is a specific and forceful reason to believe the person cannot be fair, unbiased, or capable of serving as a juror. The attorney making a challenge for cause must convince the judge that cause exists. Examples of a successful challenge for cause include a prospective juror who personally knows someone involved in the case or someone who has shown a clear bias or prejudice. Each side may also exercise a set number of peremptory challenges. A peremptory challenge effectively removes a prospective juror without the side exercising the challenge needing to provide a reason (as long as the reason is not discriminatory). Most felony prosecutions allow both sides to use eight peremptory challenges. If the offense is punishable by death, however, each side has 15 peremptory challenges. Conversely, if you are charged with only a misdemeanor punishable by less than one year in jail, each side only gets three peremptory challenges.

As jurors are excused for challenges, new jurors from the jury pool are brought in to replace them. When both sides have used all their peremptory challenges, and no challenges for cause exist, the 12 people (plus an alternate) remaining become the jury that will decide your fate.

Contact a Murfreesboro Criminal Defense Lawyer 

If you have been charged with a criminal offense in the State of 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