Sample Questions for Jury Selection

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In a 1999 "Court Review" article, Judge Gregory E. Mize of the District of Columbia emphasizes the need to examine potential jurors through a series of questions. The questions are designed to reveal any bias that might affect the jurors' ability to render fair decisions. The questions are generic at the beginning for the entire pool of potential jurors and can become more specific with individual jurors. Such general questions are designed to expose prior knowledge of the case or the parties involved and ability to serve.

Familiarity Questions

  • Mize recommends bringing participants into the pre-trial proceedings before the assembled jurors. He indicates that jurors should be asked if they are familiar with any of the participants or the events of that resulted in the case. The judge will ask if any prospective jurors live or work near the scene of the alleged crime and if they have relatives employed in the criminal justice system.

Trial-Specific Questions

  • The New Jersey Court's guidelines for selection of juries note that questions must be selected based on the particular characteristics of a trial. A judge may chose to repeat questions asked by the lawyers or ask specific questions of his own. The lawyers should ask questions of their own based on their goals rather than using the judge's questions. The judge's questions will cover all aspects of the trial. The defense lawyers' questions will address potential negative bias toward the accused. The prosecutors' questions address favorable bias toward the accused or negative bias toward the authorities.

Ability to Serve

  • Questions must be asked that will determine the jurors' ability to serve. The judge may ask if prospective jurors are physically capable of serving for the duration of the trial. Questions may be necessary that reveal financial hardship or family situations that that could prevent service. Jurors may be asked if they need special accommodations to serve. Examples of such accommodations could include an electronic speaker or interpreter for a juror with hearing loss.

Jurors' Background

  • Questions should address backgrounds of potential jurors in areas such as relationships to law enforcement officers. The possibility of jurors themselves or those known to them being victims of crime should be noted. Lists of those involved in the trial, such as witnesses, should be presented to make sure that they are not known to jurors. Knowledge of the crime by jurors should be determined before the trial. Any factors that could affect a juror's impartiality must be addressed.

Suitability of Personal Questions

  • In a "Rutgers Journal of Law & Urban Policy" article, professor Lauren A. Rousseau emphasizes the need for a balance in questions for potential jurors. The balance must be between the requirement of providing unbiased jurors while still protecting the privacy of the jurors. Questions may address personal aspects of jurors' lives to insure that the jury is representative of society. There is still disagreement between legal scholars as to the suitability of certain personal questions, and the U.S. Supreme Court has not fully addressed the issue.

References

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