“Jury service honorably performed is as important in defense of our country, its Constitution and laws, and the ideals and standards for which they stand, as the service rendered by the soldier on the field of battle in time of war.”
George H. Boldt, U.S. Federal Judge, 1959
The second in our series will focus on Jury selection. Information for our blogs is gathered from www.courts.mo.gov.
Selection of the Jury
The first step in a trial is to select from the panel the number of jurors required to try the case.
A short statement may be given describing the case and the parties in the case. Then prospective jurors will be questioned by the lawyers or the judge to see if the jurors are qualified to act as fair and impartial jurors in the particular case. All jurors, before being questioned, take an oath (or affirm) that they will answer truthfully.
There are certain legal grounds for which a juror may be challenged for cause and excused. Some of these grounds are established by state statute, such as for relatives by blood or marriage to the parties in the lawsuit. In addition, each side will excuse a certain number of jurors without giving any reason. These are called peremptory challenges. These do not require cause. If a juror is excused, this does not imply something bad and does not mean the juror is incompetent in any way. It frequently happens that a prospective juror will be excused in a certain case and be selected in another. The number of peremptory challenges is limited.
When all the challenges have been used, a sufficient number from those jurors who have been called and who have not been excused are sworn to try the case on its merits or serve as alternates.
Any persons excused from jury service as a result of the qualification process or by having their name stricken by the attorneys for the parties should not consider the challenge or retirement from the jury panel a reflection on their integrity or intelligence. None was intended by the judge, the lawyers or the parties in the lawsuit.
Note: If you have a hearing or sight problem, you should advise the judge of this problem at the beginning of jury selection. If you are selected as a juror, reasonable accommodations, such as an assistive listening device, may be made available.
Oath: After the jurors are selected, they are required to take a solemn oath (or to affirm) that they will “well and truly try the matters in issue and a true verdict render according to the evidence and the law.” When jurors take this oath, they become a judge of all questions of fact and are duty bound to act fairly and impartially in considering them.
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