Choosing a Jury in a Criminal Case

Choosing a Jury in a Criminal CaseJury selection is, perhaps, the most critical part of any defense trial. If you’ve been charged with an assault, a DUI, possession of drugs, or any other offense, you want jury members who will truly listen to your version of what happened. You want jurors who will not automatically support everything that the prosecution presents. You want jurors who can relate to your financial and personal circumstances.

At Shepherd & Long PC, our seasoned Maryville criminal defense lawyers are experienced in the jury selection process. Once the trial starts, we understand how to persuasively and clearly present your case to a jury. We understand that each jury is different and that the more we understand about the juror member’s views, the better we can argue your defense.

What are the jury selection requirements in Blount County?

The US Constitution’s Sixth Amendment 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 where the said crimes shall have been committed.”

According to Blount County, jurors in both criminal and civil cases are randomly selected from a computerized jury pool. Jurors are licensed Blount County drivers. They are paid $10 a day for their participation in the jury process. Jurors cannot use any communication devices during the trial including cellular phones and computers.

What about the rest of Tennessee?

It depends on the county, but we assure you – we’re familiar with all of them. In general, though, jurors in Tennessee cases must be at least 18 years old. They must be residents of Tennessee and US citizens. Anyone convicted of a felony or perjury cannot serve as a juror.

How do you choose the right jurors in criminal cases in Tennessee?

You want jurors who will side with you, of course; every lawyer does, no matter what type of trial it is. The prosecutor wants a conviction; we want an acquittal. In most criminal cases, the art of selecting jurors who will be more favorable to your defense than other jurors includes the following considerations:

  • Understanding that there is a balance. Defense lawyers want jurors who will listen to their defense. The balance is that we also need to respect the suffering of any alleged victim.
  • The prosecution’s viewpoint. In most situations, if the prosecution likes a juror, that’s a good indication we don’t want that juror. If the prosecution doesn’t like a juror, it may be someone who seems more likely to acquit, so we might want to keep him or her.
  • The juror’s life experiences. A jury who has been the victim of a crime is not likely to be sympathetic to a defendant. There are many life experiences that aren’t as clear cut but may provide some indication of bias. We want to know what type of work a juror does, is he/she married, do they have children, what hobbies they have, what town they live in, do they own or rent, and other life experiences.
  • The juror’s confidence level. In many jury deliberations, one or two jurors can push the others to their way of thinking. We want to explore whether a juror is likely to assert himself/herself or passively go along with others.
  • The juror’s social media experience. In this day and age, a lot can be learned about a juror’s inclinations by reviewing his/her Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and other accounts.
  • Whether the juror has a legal background. Generally, defense lawyers tend to prefer someone who is not involved with the legal system, for a few reasons. People who have some legal experience are more inclined to make up their minds faster and to think they know everything. The prosecution case goes first. We want to ensure the juror can wait to hear the defense case.

There are many other jury selection considerations depending on the criminal charges, the judge who is assigned to your case, and other factors.

But choosing which jurors you want isn’t enough; you also have to decide which ones you don’t want, and sometimes that’s even more important.

The jury selection process in criminal cases is governed by Rule 24 of Tennessee’s Criminal Procedure. That rule allows us (and prosecutors) to question jurors and challenge selections. The prosecution and our defense lawyers can ask questions to determine if there is a basis for challenging a juror or for a peremptory challenge.

  • A juror can be challenged for cause if it is clear the juror is unable to render an impartial decision. Jurors can also be challenged/disqualified if they have been exposed to information about the case (such as reading about the case in the newspapers), provided it is clear the juror would not be able to make a fair decision. The judge decides if there is an actual cause or if the lawyer should be forced to make a peremptory challenge.
  • Defense and prosecution lawyers can raise peremptory challenges. This means that each side can disqualify a juror for any reason. The catch is that we and the prosecution can only raise a limited number of challenges.
    • In fatality cases, each side can raise 15 peremptory challenges for each defendant.
    • In cases where the sentence could be one year or more, the number of peremptory challenges for each side is 8 for each defendant.
    • For cases where the sentence will be at most one day less than a full year, the number of peremptory challenges is 3 for each defendant.

The are many case decisions that govern when and how challenges to jurors and to the whole jury selection process can be raised. Our criminal defense lawyers understand the case law that governs jury selection.

At Shepherd & Long, P.C., we understand how frightening any criminal charge is. Your freedom and reputation are at stake. Each stage of your defense from the initial preliminary hearings and suppression hearings through the jury trial is crucial. Our lawyers have a strong track record of obtaining dismissals, acquittals, and plea bargains. We’ve been fighting for criminal defendants in Maryville and Blount County, and throughout Tennessee, for 30 years. To discuss your criminal charges, call us at  865-982-8060 or complete our contact form to schedule an appointment.