The jury trial is a core component of the American judicial system, particularly as it applies to determining guilt or innocence in criminal trials. Having a group of peers, instead of a judge sitting in a position of authority, decide the final outcome lends the process a bit more fairness. However, delving into the criminal process should not be attempted without representation from an experienced criminal defense attorney.
Judges, lawyers, and juries make up key aspects of the trial process, but the focus is rarely on the function of a jury. People generally know that juries declare whether a defendant is guilty or not, but may not know about the rules that govern their service, including how they review evidence, or how each individual is selected. Given the vital role, juries play in the criminal process, an overview of the selection process and purpose of the jury in criminal trials will follow below.
Anyone accused of a crime is entitled to a trial by jury, and as a consequence, when the accused walks into the courtroom on the first day of trial, a jury is ready and waiting for the process to begin. But, how did these particular people end up sitting in the jury box? Jurors are meant to represent a cross-section of the community, and thus represent an approximation who would qualify as peers of the accused.
Further, jurors need to have an unbiased view of the case at hand so a balanced and fair verdict can be issued. In order to find individuals who can objectively evaluate the relevant evidence and testimony, the prosecutor, defense attorney, and judge meet with a large group of prospective jurors before the trial starts.
During this meeting, the judge and attorneys ask each person various questions aimed at determining if he/she can be impartial if chosen to serve. Both attorneys have the ability to request dismissal of jurors if they believe a particular individual is biased, and also to dismiss a certain number, depending on the offense, for no cause.
However, the dismissal of a prospective juror cannot be based on the person’s sex, religion, or nationality. Once the prosecutor and defense can agree on 12 people, the jury panel is set, and the trial can move forward.
Jury’s Role and Rules
The main job of a jury is to assess the evidence and testimony presented during trial to determine if the prosecution proved the accused is guilty “beyond a reasonable doubt.” In order keep this process as fair as possible, the jury is only permitted to consider evidence introduced and the judge’s instructions.
The use of outside information or evidence to reach a verdict is never permitted. Importantly, jurors are not allowed to discuss any aspect of the case with anyone connected to the case or from the outside, other than other jurors, including the attorneys, witnesses, family members, or friends. This prohibition is in place to prevent the juror from being influenced by outside information, and the judge has the ability to sequester a jury, usually in high-profile cases, if there is a reasonable fear the jurors could be tainted.
Once all the evidence and arguments from both sides are presented, the jury is sent off to debate the merits of the case, and reach a unanimous decision of guilty or not guilty. The jury is permitted to ask the judge certain questions to assist with deliberations, as long as the attorneys are present, related to:
- the case;
- rehearing specific evidence; and
- reexamining particular evidence.
Once the jury reaches a unanimous decision, or the judge decides further deliberations are unlikely to produce agreement, deliberations end, and the verdict is read or a mistrial is declared.
Hire a Criminal Defense Attorney
Trying to face criminal charges without hiring a criminal defense lawyer is risky, and could directly affect both the verdict and imposed sentence. Manshoory Law Group, APC handles both State and federal criminal matters and will fight to get you the best possible outcome. If you live in Los Angeles, contact the office today for assistance. Attorneys are available 24/7 to take your call.