by Austin Smith
You have the constitutional right to an impartial, representative jury. The process of jury selection, known as “voir dire,” is designed to ensure you are tried by a jury of your peers. After a panel of prospective jurors, or a “trial jury panel,” is summoned. Both the prosecution and defense attempt to exclude jurors with any bias, overt or internal.
Selection of Trial Jury Panel
Jurors are selected randomly from the population of the area over which the court has jurisdiction. This list is compiled of names from driver’s licenses, DMV (Department of Motor Vehicles) identification cards, and voter registrations. People are randomly selected and placed on a “master list,” and once that list is created, potential jury members are sent a questionnaire. If they are deemed qualified, they are placed on a “qualified jury list” and are notified where and when to show up as part of a trial jury panel.
Voir Dire Process
Jurors can be removed from the panel for a general disqualification, an implied bias, or an actual bias. Eventually a jury of 12 will be selected, unless both defense and prosecution waive that right, in which case the jury may have as few as 6 members.
California judges use three different methods to select jurors for question. With the “jury box” method, 12 prospective jurors are called. Challenges are made to those jurors, and as jurors are ruled out, new prospective jurors take their place. More commonly, though, courts will use the “six-pack” method (see diagram below). 18 prospective jurors are called, with 12 sitting in the jury box and the remaining 6 seated in front of the jury box. Council will pose questions, and when the possible jurors in the jury box are excused, they are immediately replaced by the jurors already present. Rarely, a “struck juror” method is used, where jurors are first individually questioned, then questioned in groups, and finally ranked and seated in the jury box for selection.