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In Orange County, CA, Race Matters In Picking A Jury, Part One

A Defendant has a right to have a jury of his peers decide his fate. Twelve people drawn randomly from the community who come to the courthouse and vote on the guilt or innocence of the accused. The Constitution requires the selection come from a cross-section of the population of the area served by the court.

Source lists are compiled from voter registration roles, driver’s license lists, utility company lists, telephone directories, and Department of Motor Vehicles’ identification card records. Generally speaking, a prospective juror has to be a citizen of the United States, live in California and be a resident of the jurisdiction in which the case is being tried. The juror cannot have a disability which would prevent him or her from judging the case, speak English well enough to understand the proceedings, not be convicted of a felony or of malfeasance in office, not be the subject of a conservatorship, and not be simultaneously serving on a grand jury.

The picking of a jury requires the attorney to decide who shall sit on the jury to decide his client’s fate. The prospective jurors must assure the court that they can decide the case based solely on the law and the evidence. The lawyer looks for body language signals as well as the actual answers to the questions posed to the prospective jurors. It isn’t always as obvious as a rolling of the eyes or a shrug of the shoulders. Many times it is the inflection of the voice or a shifting uncomfortably when answering the questions.

Finally, though, it’s the lawyer’s gut instinct which determine who stays and who goes. In a non-life sentence case the number of challenges a lawyer can make is limited to ten. That is, a lawyer can excuse a juror for no apparent reason up to ten times in most cases.

This blog is continued on Part Two.