Criminal Law – Jury Selection
“Trying a case is the most fun you can have with your clothes on.” – Henry Lagman
In every case the parties to a trial of the case have the right to select a fair and impartial group of citizens dear the controversy brought to court. This occurs in civil cases and criminal cases. The seriousness of being involved in an important matter is not mean that you or your attorney should not understand the process. I believe that jury selection is a tool that is overlooked and sometimes misunderstood. Likewise there are many approaches to jury selection in the conventional trial in criminal court each side is entitled to an even number of jury strikes or excuses. The number of strikes or excuses is based on how many much people must be eliminated to finally have 12 people who are willing to serve on a jury. The defendant therefore is entitled to the same number of strikes is the prosecution. But what does that gets you? Do you and your lawyer understand the biased and prejudices of those who are sworn to hear the case fairly? Let’s face it, we all have prejudices but what about the ones you don’t know about?
What do you make of an attorney that can excuse 56 of 58 jurors on a jury panel the calls of “prejudice” with one question?
In Alabama courtroom in a criminal trial I succeeded in eliminating 56 and 58 jurors. This was done in a packed courtroom with the jury box of attorneys who are watching the jury selection as they waited on the judge to take up their separate motions. They were mostly asleep as jury selection for an attorney can be almost routine. The judge thought jury selection would take place as it always did he could swear them in and dismissed them for lunch. As the judge presided in the Lars watch the proceedings with halfhearted interest I had my turn at the jury. The DA had asked five or six questions and waved the proceedings over. I asked one question, identified the entire panel is being prejudiced and then made a motion to strike the ENTIRE panel except for two jurors. The judge was stunned! Yet, he was compelled to agree with me. He stated “Esther Lagman we can try case with only two jurors!” Nevertheless, Mr. Lagman insisted that the jury be dismissed. On the record, and forced to agree the judge ordered the panel to go home.
The next month I was required to strike another jury in the same case before the same judge. This time out 36 jurors after a day of examination I excuse nine for prejudice. This left only 27 jurors to arrive at a jury of 12 I’ve been used by next regular excuses to arrive at a jury of 12. I had even the score so much that in the middle of the trial after I had made a motion to suppress evidence Dist. Atty. leaned over to me at a break and said, if your client will pay the court costs we will dismiss the case.” And so it was dismissed a victory for the defendant!
The importance of jury selection cannot be overrated. The defendant is not have to accept the jury which the state gives him and is drawn at random. You should give this equal fault when you seek to be excused from jury duty the next time you’re called it is the duty of every citizen to step forward one called if you don’t step forward, then who will step forward for you when you are before the judge and your future hangs in the balance?
If a lawyer thinking about hiring does not have trial experience can you really expect a good outcome? In selecting your jury to entrust your case does that jury have the ability to do that? Moreover that he had the courage and tenacious is to challenge the judge and the “excepted thinking” of how to try the case?
Only you can make those determinations – – – –
Not every case should be tried, but as I like to say, “trying a case is the most fun you can have with your clothes on.” The reason that I like to say it, is that for me it is true.