What Type of Jurors Will Decide My Case in a Jury Trial?

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Posted in On July 9, 2024

The Federal and Indiana Constitutions guarantee the right to an impartial jury for anyone accused of committing a crime.  The right to have an impartial jury, consisting of individuals within the community to decide guilt or innocence in a criminal trial, is one of the most sacred rights in the United States.  This blog will shed light on who is eligible to serve on a jury, and how a jury is ultimately selected to hear a case.

Citizens are randomly selected to report to a “jury pool” at the courthouse in order to participate in the jury selection process.  Once the potential jurors are assembled at the courthouse, they will be randomly assigned to various courtrooms in which jury trials are slated to take place.  Once the potential jurors arrive at the courtroom to which they are assigned, the judge will ask a series of questions to the entire panel to ensure that all of the potential jurors are able to serve.

Generally, anyone is eligible to serve as a juror that is over the age of 18, is a United States citizen, lives in the county in which the case is filed, and is able to read and speak English.  Indiana Jury Rule 5 lays out a few additional factors for automatic disqualification from jury service.  Namely, individuals should not be suffering from a physical or mental disability that would prevent them from rendering satisfactory jury service.  An individual cannot serve as a juror if he/she is under a guardianship because of mental incapacity.  Law enforcement officers are not permitted to serve as jurors in a criminal case.  Finally, a person that has had their voting rights revoked due to a felony conviction is not permitted to serve as a juror.

After the judge has completed asking the general questions to determine if any of the potential jurors should be disqualified, the attorneys are free to question the panel.  Each side is given equal amounts of time to ask questions of the potential jurors.  After questioning the panel, each side is allowed to strike (or remove), potential jurors by using either a peremptory challenge or a for-cause challenge.

It is important to note the difference between a peremptory challenge and a for-cause challenge.  In a misdemeanor or level 6 felony trial, both the state and defense possess 5 peremptory challenges.  In a major felony trial, meaning a level 5 felony or higher, each side possesses 10 peremptory challenges.  In layman’s terms, a peremptory challenge allows each side to strike potential jurors from the panel for any reason other than race, gender, or religion.   

In addition to possessing the 5-10 peremptory challenges, both sides have an unlimited number of for-cause challenges.  A for-cause challenge is available to remove any prospective juror whose views would prevent or substantially impair him/her from serving as a fair and impartial juror in this particular case.  Ultimately, it is up to the judge to grant or deny an attorney’s for-cause challenge.  For example, an individual that has been the victim of a burglary may not be able to be fair and impartial to serve as a juror in a burglary trial.  It is entirely up to the attorneys to flesh out reasons for a for-cause challenge during the questioning of the panel.  Therefore, it is critically important to have an attorney that can identify problem jurors and to successfully convince the judge to strike them for cause.  Successfully utilizing a for-cause challenge will help to preserve peremptory strikes for other non-desirable members of the panel.

Jury selection continues until there are 6 jurors (plus 1 alternate) remaining for a misdemeanor or level 6 felony trial.  For a major felony trial, meaning a level 5 felony or higher, jury selection continues until there are 12 jurors remaining (plus 1 or 2 alternates).   

As mentioned earlier, the aim of a jury trial is to select a panel of impartial citizens to hear the evidence in the case and to make a determination as to the defendant’s guilt or innocence.  Are you or someone you love facing criminal charges?  Do you need an experienced trial attorney to navigate the jury trial process?  Call the experienced attorneys at Banks and Brower anytime at 317-870-0019 or email us at info@banksbrower.com