A jury trial is a strictly controlled, highly organized and well-defined process that is usually tightly controlled by the judge. The process involves a series of steps, usually initiating with pre-trial motions, jury instructions, jury selection, opening statements, introduction of evidence, the judge instructing the jury on the law, followed by finally closing arguments.
A jury trial may take only a few days or many months. It may involve one witnesses or hundreds, no documents or countless documents. The process described above many vary trial judge to trial judge, and how much time is allowed or allocated for each step of the trial process may be dictated and controlled by the judge. How testimony and documents are admitted into evidence and shown or described to the jury is also a relatively flexible aspect that may decided differently between courts.
With so much to think about and plan while preparing for trial, it is easy to be confused or overwhelmed with what is significant and what will not be realized by the judge or jury. What, then, is the most important part of every jury trial?
Jury selection is the most important aspect of any jury trial, yet it is also the more frequently misunderstood aspect, for which the least amount of time is dedicated towards.
There are no “rules” for jury selection, and very little, if any, guidelines offered by the judge. There is no express purpose to jury selection, unlike the clear purpose of seeking to introduce a specific document into evidence, or trying to preserve and present a certain witnesses’ testimony about particular facts to aid the case.
Further, it is virtually impossible to decide exactly how to pick a jury, much less whether the trial lawyer has picked the “right jury,” or even how to pick the “right jury.” There are not even any guidelines for how to address the jury, or what questions to ask, or even what information to solicit from the jury.
Finally, a lawyer’s experience selecting juries does not necessarily make that person an expert in jury selection, or even competent at selecting a jury. After all, doing the same thing incorrectly over and over does not make an expert in the task.
If you have a case going to trial, ask your lawyer not only how many juries he or she has selected and how long ago, but ask him or her what his or her process is in selection, what his or her theory is, what the lawyer is looking for or seeking to avoid.
Seek to determine whether or not your trial lawyer understands the fine and particular practice of jury selection, its purpose and intent and, most importantly, how to seek to select the jury most appropriate for your trial.