Juror Selection Process
Jury service is a way for U.S. citizens to participate in the judicial process. Each court randomly selects qualified citizens from counties within the district for possible jury service.
All courts use the respective state voter lists as a source of prospective jurors. If voter lists alone fail to provide the court and litigants with a representative cross section of the relevant community, courts use other sources in addition to voter lists, such as lists of licensed drivers in the district, in an attempt to comply with the section 28 U.S.C. §1861 of The Jury Selection and Service Act.
Those randomly selected are mailed a qualification questionnaire to complete and return to the court within 10 days or instructed to complete the questionnaire online on the court’s eJuror page.
From Jury Pool to Jury Box
Being summoned for jury service does not mean that a person will end up serving on a jury. When a jury is needed for a trial, a group of qualified jurors who reported to court in response to the jury summons is taken to the courtroom where the trial will take place. The judge and attorneys ask the potential jurors questions, general or related to the specific case before them, to determine their suitability to serve on the jury. This process is called voir dire, which typically results in some prospective jurors being excused, based on their answers, from serving in that trial. The attorneys also may exclude a certain number of jurors without giving a reason.
Working Together, A Judge and Jury
The jury finds the facts in the case based on what evidence is presented to them through testimony or in exhibits from the parties admitted into evidence by the judge during the proceedings.
At the end of a trial, the judge instructs the jury on the applicable law. While the jury must obey the judge’s instructions as to the law, the jury alone is responsible for determining the facts of the case from the differing versions presented by the parties at trial.
For example, a judge might instruct jurors that, as a matter of law, the defendant must have known they were committing a crime to be convicted. The jury must make the factual determination whether the evidence showed that the defendant had that knowledge. If the jury finds that the evidence fails to prove the defendant knew they were committing a crime, the jury must find the defendant not guilty, based on the legal instructions the judge provided the jury prior to deliberations.