What Function Does a Jury Serve in a Criminal Trial?
If you have been arrested and charged with a criminal offense, you are most likely feeling overwhelmed about the process ahead. If your case goes to trial, one of the most crucial aspects of your case will be the jury. The Sixth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution gives criminal defendants the right to a jury trial. The jury plays a critical role in a criminal trial. It is crucial to understand what this role is. By understanding the role of jurors in a criminal proceeding, you will know what to expect and can prepare in advance. In this article, we discuss the function of jurors in a criminal trial. But before that, we explain how jury members are selected. Read on!
How Are Jurors Selected?
When a person is summoned for jury service, it doesn’t mean they automatically get to be a part of the jury. After people are selected for jury service, they are taken to the courtroom, where the trial will happen, and the “voir dire” process begins. “Voir dire,” a French term that means “to speak the truth,” is the process of selecting jurors who will serve in a jury from a large group of potential jurors. This is the process of determining if potential jurors are suited to serve on a jury. The voir dire process aims to identify factors such as biases or preconceived notions that might prevent a juror from being impartial. During voir dire, potential jurors answer several questions. The prosecution and defense attorneys can excuse prospective jurors based on their answers. Also, the prosecutor and defense attorney can challenge jurors for cause if they believe there is a specific reason why a potential juror cannot be impartial.
What Is the Function of a Jury?
So, what role does a jury play in a criminal trial? During a criminal trial, the jury hears the defense attorney’s and prosecutor’s opening statements. Jurors listen to the prosecution’s evidence, the defendant’s defenses, and witness testimonies. After all the evidence and defenses have been presented, and the defense and prosecution side have presented their closing arguments, the jury deliberates and reaches a verdict. During the deliberation phase, jurors discuss the facts, revisit the judge’s instructions regarding how to interpret the law and work towards a unanimous decision. Jurors can send out notes asking the judge to remind them of the details of the evidence or for the law to be explained to them further. Once the jury has reached a unanimous decision, it returns to the court, and the spokesperson reads the verdict.
In some cases, the jury is unable to reach a unanimous decision. A jury that cannot reach a unanimous decision is called a hung jury. In such a case, the judge may ask the jury to deliberate further. If that does not work, the judge may declare a mistrial, after which the prosecution may choose to retry or dismiss the case.
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