How do lawyers select a federal criminal jury?
Jury selection by the criminal defense lawyer is one of the most important stages of trial.
In the United States District Court for the Southern District of California, most San Diego criminal defense lawyers use the “Arizona Blind Strike” system for jury selection. The techinical term for jury selection is “voir dire,” which means “to say-to speak.”
Jurors are normally first examined by the District Court judge and then the attorneys as the judge to excuse jurors who are obviously biased: those who say they cannot follow the law, do no believe that the defendant is presumed innocent, or they do not believe they can be fair.Then, in San Diego most judge allow the federal criminal defense lawyer to examine the jurors individually finding out more about their background, their feelings toward the case, and the type of individual they are.
Many jurors will not easily reveal their bias so an experienced criminal defense attorney must ask questions carefully to try to reveal that bias. In drug cases such as transportation of cocaine, methamphetamine, marijuana, or heroin, it is important for the attorney to learn the juror’s attitude toward drugs. In San Diego, many jurors have strong feelings against drugs because we live in a border community. The defense lawyer must also insure that the juror does not have been feelings about defense attorneys or lawyers–many people simply don’t like attorneys.
Then, the government writes the numbers of up to six and the criminal dense attorney ten names of jurors that they wish to excuse without giving a reason. It is important for both sides to select a jury with which they are comfortable. The United States Supreme Court has decided that it is illegal for the prosecutor to excuse jurors based on constitutionaly protected reasons, such as race.
Selecting a jury is truly the most important part of a trial. The decision must be unanimous. One good defense juror can prevent a criminal defendant from being convicted, and conversely, one bad juror can “hang the jury” causing the trial to have to be repeated.
A good criminal defense lawyer must also be a psychologist and know how to read people. Every trial is different. For instance, a young female student may be a good juror for the defendant in a case where the accusation is another female shoplfiting but a poor juror in a sexual assault case.
Attorney Russell S. Babcock has more than thirty years of experience trying both federal and state criminal cases and has tried more than fifty jury trials. Many of these cases have resulted in verdicts of not guilty. (See, for example the cases of Cesar C. and the eleven ton cocaine case of the Sevesda Maru.)
As your federal defense lawyer, we will carefully explain the voir dire process to you. The decision you receive in your case, if you go to trial, is only as good as the twelve people that have been selected by your lawyer to make the decision.