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Jury Selection

The first step addressed in a trial that's verdict is to be determined by a jury is the selection of jurors. In Latin, this is known by the phrase "voir dire". In Florida State court, felonies are tried by a panel of twelve jurors in non-capital cases.

If a person is charged with any capital offense they are eligible to have a twelve person jury not counting alternates. An example of this would be a trial for the crime of first degree murder. If the verdict results in a conviction, a sentence of the punishment by death can possibly be imposed during the trial's penalty phase.  

The Sixth Amendment of the United States Constitution guarantees the right to a jury trial in US Federal Court. This communicates to convictions that carry a probable penalty of more than six months of imprisonment and are characterized as serious felonies, as opposed to minor crimes which are construed as crimes that would be carrying a punishment of less than six months of incarceration.

In these serious crimes the defendant has the right to request a jury trial in a case where a plea agreement can't be reached between the prosecuting body and the charged party's defense counsel. In the case of less serious offenses the defendant is not eligible for a trial by jury.

Prospective jurors are selected from a pool produced by undiscriminating choices of civilians' names. These choices are supplied from combined lists of registered voters and people with driver's licenses, residing within the particular judicial district. These prospective jurors first fill out questionnaires in the initial determination of whether they are capable of serving on a jury. After these questionnaires are reviewed, the court of law selects its chosen candidate's that will then be required or summoned to appear for jury duty on a random basis. This method of selection is accepted in assistance of ensuring that a representation of a fair sample of the municipality is bestowed upon the selected jurors, dismissing any concern to political affiliation, national origin, race, sex, or age.

Primarily, in state cases the judge or magistrate will permit questioning by defense counsel as well as the prosecution, giving them leeway to form opinions if the prospective individuals will qualify to act as a juror in the pending case. However, in federal court, allowing attorneys to question pending jurors is at the discretion of the judge. Generally, federal judges carry out the complete selection of jurors on their own.

During the selection of a jury, challenges are used by both the defense and prosecution requesting the dismissal of a potential juror for various reasons. Additionally, a challenge can request a dismissal of an entire jury panel up to the point that it's been thus far partially assembled if the assortment of the existing panel has violated some rule intended to produce unbiased juries taken from a fair cross-section of the community as well as other reasons negating impartiality.
A challenge for cause requests a judge to dismiss a sole potential juror from serving, by providing a valid legal reason why they shouldn't serve for a stated purpose.  This would include any prospective juror's prior knowledge of relevant information relating to bias or prejudice that would impede their impartial calculation of evidence offered at trial. For example, a prospective juror is a relation of the defendant or of an attorney representing him or otherwise a relation of a member of the prosecution. Other diverse relationships between any of the involved parties may be considered for discharge as well. Another example of this would be if the prospective juror discloses their prejudice toward a defendant or member of the prosecution in relation to their religion or race. This would allow the judge to dismiss the specific would-be juror for cause.

A Peremptory challenge is another of a limited number of challenges given to both the prosecution and the defense. A peremptory challenge can result in the rejection of a potential juror without need for explanation or reason. This can be accepted by the court unless the opposing party exhibits an "on its face (prima facie)" argument that the challenge was made to discriminate on the foundation of ethnicity, race, or sex.

Some of the significant challenges for the disqualification of an individual include a prejudicial remark or innuendo during the interview process, questioning the prospective juror's judgment based on publicity relating to the case before jury selection initiated, bias based on a juror having a relationship with a witness who will give testimony during the case, a juror's frame of mind relating to law enforcement witnesses as well as the belief in their credibility.

After the process has completed before or during trial begins matters such as juror misconduct can cause their dismissal established on the rules governing the removal of a juror during a trial. In some cases this situation can become basis for new trial.

Alternate jurors are always discharged before deliberations begin and a separate set of rules apply to them. Communication between trial counsel, the judge and jury are stringently structured.

There are also panels known as Anonymous Juries or an Innominate Jury. This type of jury may be requested by either or both the defense and prosecution for the purpose of protecting the jury members from potential jury tampering or present and future danger to its members. The body may also be called in effect where a media circus in high profile cases exists, or social pressure to return a particular verdict is present. In some cases, the juries' identity is completely kept hidden but in others the prosecution and defense are privy to its member's identity but is not released to the public or the press.

Mr. Cohen can be contacted for immediate assistance, in Fort Lauderdale  at 954.928.0059 or in West Palm Beach at 561.366.8200

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