Sex Offense: Jury Selection

Anyone who is charged with a sex crime in the United States has the right to trial by jury, and the process of selecting that jury will play an important role throughout the rest of the case. Without a fairly chosen jury, your case outcome will not be just, and working with a sex offense attorney will help you ensure that potential jurors are properly scrutinized before they are selected to determine your fate. The Michigan court jury selection process involves screening potential jurors, potentially questioning jurors in the courtroom, and challenging questionable jury candidates before a final selection is made. This is often a complex process, and isn’t simply left to random selection as many assume. There are a number of strategies to consider throughout the jury selection process in order to secure the best possible panel of jurors for a specific case.

Initial Stages of Michigan Jury Selection

When the selection process begins, potential jurors will be brought into the juror’s box in the courtroom and will take an oath swearing to truthfully answer questions asked. The judge will question jurors concerning their ability to serve as a juror, often referring to the potential juror by a seat number or other number assigned to each so as to protect the privacy of potential jurors. In many cases, the prosecution and defense will also be able to question potential jurors after the judge is finished, either through oral questioning in the courtroom or pre-approved written questions submitted from both the prosecution and he defense.

During this initial stage of jury selection, attorneys have the rare opportunity to converse with jurors and build a reputation with potential jurors. Later on in the case, conversation with jurors is prohibited.

Once the initial questioning is through, attorneys on both sides will have an opportunity to come forward with either a challenge for cause or a peremptory challenge, which can serve to remove a potential juror from the case.

Challenges for Cause in Michigan Jury Selection Process

A challenge for cause essentially points out fundamental problems that would deem a person unfit to serve on a jury. Both defense attorneys and prosecuting attorneys can submit as many challenges for cause as they want. There are numerous potential problems which could lead to a successful challenge for cause, including:

  • Lack of qualification to be a juror. This could be because of age, citizenship, mental illness, or other basic issues.
  • Previous felony conviction.
  • Bias against a certain party or attorney.
  • Evident state of mind which could lead to that person rendering an unjust verdict. This could mean that a person already has preconceptions about the case or an opinion on what the final outcome should be, before the trial has even started.
  • Biased opinion which could impact a person’s decision.
  • Subpoenaed as a witness in the case.
  • Juror on previous hearing of the same case.
  • Juror on previous case dealing with the same transaction.
  • Relation up to the 9th degree to a party involved including an attorney.
  • Previously accused of a crime by a party involved in the case.
  • Guardian, landlord, tenant, employer, employee, partner, client, etc. of a party involved in the case including an attorney.
  • Financial interest beyond basic taxpayer interests in the outcome of the case.
  • Specific interest in the issue to be tried.

Peremptory Challenges in MI Juror Selection

An attorney on either side can also attempt to remove a juror through a peremptory challenge, however each side is limited to 3 peremptory challenges for misdemeanor cases and 5 for felony cases. If the case involves a potential life sentence, up to 12 peremptory challenges can be used. A peremptory challenge allows an attorney to remove a potential juror without any reason, usually simply because it is believed he or she will not be beneficial to their side of the case.

Common Problems With Sex Crime Jury Selection

There are a number of additional issues to be considered when selecting a jury. Potential questions a lawyer should ask include:

  • Whether or not the racial or social group of the defendant is properly represented in the jury.
  • Whether or not there are prejudices among jurors that must be exposed.
  • Whether or not all members of the jury will be able to properly understand the details of the case and return a verdict (for example, foreigners, physically or mentally ill persons, etc.)
  • Historical run ins with the law or legal institutions which could make a person more likely to return a certain verdict.

An experienced defense attorney will consider all possible challenges and work to secure the best possible jury for the defendant in order to achieve the most favorable result. To learn more about jury selection in Michigan and how it could relate to your case, call Grabel & Associates at 1-800-342-7896 or contact our team online now or use the online contact form on this website.