Jury Selection Began Today in the Ogborn-McDonald's Hoax Trial

11/17/2008

Jury selection began today in the Ogborn-McDonald's hoax trial.  Special Judge Tom McDonald has called up 180 potential jurors to be asked question about their views on issues that may be involved in the case. 

So, how does a lawyer "select" a jury.  Actually, jury selection is not an accurate term.  Lawyers do not get to "select" jurors.  What they actually do is ask questions in order to determine whether potential jurors have any special knowledge or strongly held beliefs that might make them biased or prejudiced towards one side.  This questioning is known as "voir dire."  If a juror does have some bias or prejudice, the judge (after hearing arguments from the lawyer) may decide to exclude the juror (this is known as a "for cause" strike).  Each side in a case also has "peremptory strikes."  Usually, each claimant or defendant has four of these strikes (sometimes its only three).  If the lawyer can't convince the judge to exclude a potential juror, the lawyer can use these four strikes to exclude any potential juror for any reason (as long as the strike isn't based on race). 

In this case, this means the lawyers can likely exclude a total of 8 jurors for any reason-- and the court can exclude an unlimited number of people that it believes might not be able to be fair in this particular type of case.  If the court excluded 50 people (which would be highly unlikely), this would still leave about 120 potential jurors--about about 106 more than are necessary for a trial.  So, how do we get to 12?  Random draw.  Once the judge makes his or her exclusions, and then the attorneys make theirs, the court draws 12-15 names at random.  This becomes the jury.  Some attorneys complain that what you ultimately end up with is 12 people who didn't talk and didn't answer any questions--so there was no reason to exclude them.

Believe it or not, both sides are trying to find 12 people who know nothing about the case and will listen to all of the evidence before making a decision.  The questioning of jurors (jury selection) helps the judge and lawyers decide which 12 people can do that.

Hans Poppe