Jury Selection: The Nuts And Bolts of What Attorneys Do to Select a Jury

Posted By Michael R. Varble || 16-Oct-2013

Jury Selection, what is it and how do lawyers in New York do it ? Today's blog post briefly discusses what attorneys think about during jury selection and the nuts and bolts of selecting a jury. If you have been injured due to the negligence of someone else, call us for a free consultation and case evaluation at 800.900.6204.

Jury selection is one of the most important parts of a civil jury trial. In New York, there are two methods, White's or the Struck method. If the attorneys cannot agree on the method, the Court selects the method. Regardless of the method, counsel for the plaintiff begins questioning the jury. In each round of selection, the exercise of challenges by either party alternates between them and each side uses one challenge at a time.

General questions are asked of the full panel using the White method. After general questions fill a "box" with six jurors, counsel for the plaintiff begins asking questions of the individual jurors. The parties then excuse jurors for cause or on consent before they exercise their peremptory challenges. When a juror is removed from a box for cause or on consent, that juror is immediately replaced and questioning begins again by the plaintiff.

Once there are six cause-free jurors in the box, the parties get to exercise peremptory challenges. What is a "cause free" juror ? a prospective juror can be excused "for cause" if they know about the subject matter of the case, know the parties, know the attorneys or the witnesses, or if the prospective juror is related to a party. Prospective jurors can also be excused if they owns shares in or are employed by an insurance company. For any New York attorneys out there in Internet land reading this post, you can find the technical language at CPLR 4110. For cause challenges just mean that you as a prospective juror can be excused from the panel without the parties being required to use their peremptory challenges. The attorneys can also consent to excusing a prospective juror and there are a number of reasons that attorneys would consent to excusing a juror from serving on a jury which are too many to discuss in this post.

Each attorney is allocated three peremptory challenges for six jurors and one additional peremptory challenge for the two alternates. Peremptory challenges are just challenges that attorneys are permitted to use when selecting the panel of jurors where the prospective juror is not dismissed for cause or on consent. these challenges are when attorneys get to use their own discretion in excusing jurors that the attorney believes will not be favorable to their client's case. How do we do this ? There are so many methods that attorneys use that I cannot possible discuss all of them but I will discuss a few things I think about during jury selection further in this blog post.

The other method of jury selection used in New York is the Struck method. The basic idea behind the Struck method is that a panel of prospective jurors is placed in the "box" that equals the full number of jurors needed for the jury after all peremptory challenges are exercised, but this is done after all consent and for cause challenges are finished.

The attorneys then begin the Voir Dire process. What is Voir Dire ? This is when attorneys get to question prospective jurors. The first thing every attorney will look at is the background questionnaire that is to be completed by all prospective jurors. Don't worry, these are kept confidential when your jury service is complete. Attorneys read over these questionnaires with a fine tooth comb. What do we look for ? Well, there are many different schools of thought on how to select a jury that is favorable to your client and attorneys are required to make these decisions on less than complete information and in a short period of time. What I look for is someone who can identify with my client. Someone that will understand their position in life and my client's experiences. Maybe the juror will even think that this accident could have happened to them. I also look for people that seem to be reasonable in their responses to me and who are thoughtful. My approach to jury trials is pretty straight forward and I always rely on the truth of my client's circumstances. I want my jurors to follow what went on with my client's case and I want them to understand what has happened to my client as a result of the defendant's negligence. I also want jurors that appear to feel comfortable talking to me when I question them. I am, after all, telling them a story and I want them to listen to me and my client and follow along with our presentation. Attorneys often use juror profiles and consider themselves in the juror's shoes as well. A few other tips are that attorneys should not argue the merits of their client's case during jury selection. You will get your chance. You can describe your case to the jurors but argument really is reserved for opening and closing statements.

While these are some of the basics concepts of jury selection, there are often may other things that attorneys think about and consider during and before jury selection. A few other ideas that I discuss with my clients when we are proceeding to trial is they should be aware that they are on trial and the jurors park their cars where my client parks. Jurors often walk around after court is out of session and visit the same places that everyone else goes to after work. Jurors are members of your community, just like judges, court personnel and attorneys. Be aware of this if you are going to trial.

In summary, jury selection is a very important process in a trial. The public should know what we as attorneys do when selecting a jury and how we go about it to help them make informed decisions about who they choose as their own counsel should you find yourself in the position of needing an attorney. The public should also know that their service as jurors is a very important part of our service to the public. Jury service is one of the most basic rights and duties of us as citizens of our country. It is your chance, if you are selected for jury duty, to assist in dispute resolution and to serve your neighbors and friends.

While I always say I hope you never need to use the services of an attorney for a jury trial and become the "plaintiff," I know that there are plenty of people in the world that will be injured in accidents and need attorneys to represent them. If you find yourself in this position, please call us at 800.900.6204 for a free case evaluation and a free consultation. The attorneys at Michael R. Varble & Associates, P.C. have over 150 years of combined experience and we'll fight for you !

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