If you face state criminal charges, you are likely to feel a loss of control. After all, you may have had to deal with both investigators and prosecutors who have a job to do. Eventually, you may have to put your fate in the hands of a jury of 12 of your peers.
In the United States, criminal defendants have some say in which individuals appear on a jury. That is, your defense attorney has an opportunity to ask potential jurors certain questions. He or she may also remove some jurors who may be apt to convict you. In the leadup to your case, you should understand how jury selection works.
The jury pool
In Illinois, county circuit clerks create a pool of potential jurors. This pool comes from three separate places: the secretary of state’s office, election commissions and the state department of labor. As such, any adult with a driver’s license, state-issued identification card or voter registration may be in the jury pool. Also, the clerk may draw potential jurors from those who have applied for unemployment benefits.
The juror questionnaire
When summoned for jury duty, prospective jurors must complete a qualification questionnaire. The questionnaire provides judges, prosecutors and defense attorneys with important biographical and other information about each individual selected for jury duty. Attorneys may use this information to eliminate unfit, biased or otherwise unacceptable jurors.
Before sitting on a jury, potential jurors usually must answer questions from the judge. Prosecutors and defense lawyers may ask supplemental questions at the judge’s discretion. If there is legal cause for an individual to not sit on the jury, the judge may remove that person for cause. Further, prosecutors and defense counsel may eliminate up to five potential jurors for any reason at all. Dismissing a prospective juror for a legally protected reason, such as race or religion, though, may be more difficult.
As you can see, a tremendous amount of thought and work go into choosing a jury for a criminal trial in Illinois. Accordingly, because the outcome of your case may depend on the makeup of the jury, understanding jury selection before going to trial is important.