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How is a jury selected for a criminal trial?

Most Maryland residents have been called for jury duty and while many get annoyed with this responsibility because it can inconvenience their lives, they also realize how important this service is to our judicial system. But just being called for jury duty doesn't mean that someone will be automatically selected for a jury for any type of criminal trial. So how is a jury selected for this type of case?

A jury in a criminal case consists of 12 men and women and several alternates. Criminal cases usually involve crimes that are considered felonies. Potential jurors are drawn from a jury pool of citizens who have been called by their local government to serve for a specific period of time. A court clerk will call a pool of 12 jurors and bring them into a courtroom and ask them to sit in the jury box. Attorneys for both the prosecution and criminal defense will already be present.

Next, the judge in the case will enter the courtroom and tell the potential jurors some general information about the case. He or she will then ask if any of the jurors feel that they cannot serve on the jury. If any of the potential jurors believe that they can't, the judge and either or both of the attorneys present will ask them questions. They may ask if the jurors know any of the individuals involved with the case or if they had a similar experience to the case that's going on trial. This questioning of the potential jurors is known as voir dire which means to tell the truth. All jurors can be questioned by the attorneys or the judge.

If one of the attorneys thinks that a potential juror will be prejudiced against their side of the argument, they can ask the judge to dismiss the juror. This is called dismissal for cause. This may occur because the juror may be related to someone involved in the case. The prosecution and the defense have an unlimited number of dismissals during jury selection.

Once a juror is selected for a case, their job is to listen to the evidence of the case and not make any premature conclusions. However, any Maryland resident who is facing criminal charges may want to speak with a criminal defense attorney in order to find out why selecting an impartial jury is vitally important to their case.

Source: americanbar.org: "How courts work," Accessed May 22, 2016

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