More than 100 prospective jurors are scheduled to fill out questionnaires for the trial of a New York police officer accused of plotting to kidnap, torture, kill and eat women.
Prospective jurors usually aren’t asked to answer written questions, though questionnaires have been used in terrorism trials and in other cases when it’s suspected biases may be strong.
The judge says he’ll address the potential jurors beforehand Friday to emphasize how important he thinks the questionnaires are to a fair trial.
Officer Gilberto Valle is charged with conspiring with three other people last year to kidnap eight women.
Defense lawyers say he had no criminal intent and his Internet chats reflected only sexual fantasies.
Prospective jurors are likely to be asked about any biases they might have toward people who look at pornography.
The vast majority of time you will spend as a prospective juror will be spent WAITING. As with all court proceedings, you are going to wait. And wait. Most courts have short orientation videos introducing prospective jurors to the jury system. You’ll probably read a pamphlet similar to this packet to pass the time. Do not expect to be in and out in an hour – you will wait. It is recommended to bring something to read or otherwise occupy the time you wait.
The first phase of a jury trial involves the selection of particular jurors – a screening process known as voir dire. In a criminal trial involving a felony offense, 12 jurors and up to six alternate jurors may be chosen; if the charge is a misdemeanor, a jury of six is necessary. In a case involving a civil matter, a jury will comprise six jurors and usually one or two alternates.
In a criminal case, a judge will always be present during jury selection to explain the principles or law, to read the accusatory instrument, and question prospective jurors. In a civil case, the judge will normally commence the voir dire and generally oversee the entire selection process.
The court and the attorneys for the parties may question the jurors to determine their fitness to serve in a particular case. Such questions are intended to identify whether an individual may have certain biases or personal knowledge that could influence his or her ability to judge a case objectively. In order to screen out those jurors who they believe would be inappropriate for a particular case, the attorneys have the right to excuse a prospective juror from serving on the panel if they offer a justifiable reason. The process is referred to as a “challenge for cause.” There is no limit to the number of times that this challenge may be exercised.
The attorneys also have a fixed number of challenges for which a reason does NOT have to given – these challenges are known as “peremptory.” A peremptory challenge is a privilege of trial counsel exercised arbitrarily and without explanation. However, the number of peremptory challenges that may be used is limited by law and varies according to the nature of the case. This challenge may never be exercised in violation of discrimination laws.
The questioning process continues until the attorneys for all parties are satisfied with the composition of the jury or has exhausted all challenges permitted by law. Alternate jurors are necessary to ensure a sufficient number of jurors for deliberation. Throughout the trial, all jurors will sit together and pay careful attention to the evidence. The judge will decide when to excuse alternate jurors.
The policy of New York State courts is that jurors selected for juries serve as promptly as possible. Normally, a trial will start within 24 hours of the completion of jury selection.
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