Many defense attorneys consider jury selection in New Braunfels and Central Texas counties, such as Comal, Hays, and Guadalupe, the most crucial part of a trial. Understanding the jury selection process is critical. If you are facing criminal charges and may want a trial, contact a criminal defense attorney with extensive experience picking juries.
In Texas, selecting a jury is called voir dire. During voir dire, attorneys for the State and defense question a panel of people about their backgrounds, beliefs, and biases. The members of the jury come from this panel.
While we commonly speak about jury selection, in reality, attorneys deselect people on the panel. The first twelve people remaining on the panel form the jury. The attorneys use challenges for cause and preemptory strikes to deselect people on the panel.
Challenges for Cause
Each side has an unlimited number of challenges for cause. Usually, an attorney makes a challenge for cause when they believe that a prospective juror has a bias against their side.
For example, a prosecutor in a capital murder trial might challenge a prospective juror who says she does not support the death penalty. The defense attorney might challenge a prospective juror who says that he believes that any defendant who does not testify is guilty.
Each side may make a set number of peremptory strikes. An attorney does not need to justify a peremptory strike. Each side can strike a certain number of prospective jurors from the panel. The number of peremptory strikes is based on the type of offense and the number of defendants. In the typical felony trial, each side has ten strikes. In a misdemeanor trial, each side has three strikes.
Race and Sex-Based Preemptory Strikes
There are several exceptions to peremptory strikes. The attorneys may not make strikes based on race or sex. For example, the State may not strike Black or Hispanic panelists because the defendant is of the same race or because the prosecutor believes minorities are soft on crime.
When a defense attorney believes that a prosecutor made improper race-based strikes, he will make a Batson challenge. A Batson challenge, named after the U.S. Supreme Court case, forbids race-based strikes. A Batson challenge requires the prosecutor to show that his strikes were not racially motivated. An attorney would make a challenge for sex-based strikes under J.E.B. v. Alabama.
Contact me for a free case review if you are charged with a crime in Comal County or other Central Texas counties such as Hays County, Guadalupe County, Travis County, or Bexar County.