Tampa Jury Selection
Whatever your reason may be (i.e. you are not guilty, plea negotiations have broken down, or you’re preserving an appellate issue), your case is going to trial. The first decision that needs to be made is whether to have a jury trial. I would suggest that in all felony trials and most misdemeanor trials, you are going to want a jury trial. The only time to request a bench trial (trial by judge) is when the trial involves a purely legal issue or the trial is had only to preserve an appellate issue. However, waiver of a jury trial does require the consent of the Office of the State Attorney. Rule 3.260, Fla.R.Crim.P. Where there are factual disputes, a trial by jury is always preferred.
If you’re case is going to have a jury, you will need to select 12 jurors for capital charges (death penalty cases) or 6 jurors for all other criminal cases. Rule 3.270, Fla.R.Crim.P. Sometimes the court will select one or two alternate jurors to sit and hear the evidence. This is done to prevent a mistrial in the event that one of the six or twelve regular jurors gets sick, doesn’t appear, or otherwise can’t perform their duty as a juror. The alternates will be discharged and will not deliberate on the guilt or innocence of the defendant so long as no regular jurors are excused.
Jury selection officially begins the trial of the case. Some will argue, and I am one of them, the jury selection is the most important part of the trial. The reason is simple: if you get a jury predisposed to the State, it will be tough to get a favorable verdict no matter the strength of the defense case. Jury selection begins by calling a panel of possible jurors to the courtroom. The panel will then go through the voir dire process. “Voir dire” is the process of selecting jurors through group and individual questioning of the panel members and then striking potential jurors through “cause” and “peremptory” challenges. It is essentially selecting jurors through the process of elimination. The striking of jurors occurs outside of their presence so as not to offend the potential jurors.
Each party, the State and the Defendant, has unlimited “cause” challenges. Cause challenges strike potential jurors because something in their answers to questioning indicates that they could not sit as a fair and impartial juror. The number of peremptory challenges varies depending on the charges faced by the defendant. Each party will have 10 peremptory challenges for felonies punishable by death or life imprisonment, six peremptory challenges for all other felonies, and three peremptory challenges for misdemeanors.
Peremptory challenges may be used for any reason, so long as the challenge is not used for a discriminatory purpose. For example, exercising a peremptory challenge on a potential juror simply because he or she is black is not a permissible use of peremptory challenges. If a party believes that a peremptory strike was discriminatory, that party must first object and show that the venire person is a member of a distinct protected group, and request that the striking party provide a reason for the strike. Second, the burden shifts to the proponent of the strike to come forward with a race- or gender-neutral explanation. Third, if the explanation is facially race- or gender-neutral, the court must determine whether the explanation is pretextual given all the circumstances surrounding the strike. Wynn v. State, 99 So.3d 986 (Fla. 3d DCA 2012). If the court decides the reason given was genuine the strike is allowed and, likewise, disallowed if the court does believe the peremptory was based on a discriminatory purpose.
Once all challenges are exhausted, the 6-12 jurors are selected and sworn in to hear the evidence in the case. The criminal defense attorneys at Brandon Legal Group are adept at selecting jurors that give you the best chance of success. Call us today to discuss your charges and possible trial.