If you are called for jury service in the state of South Carolina, it can be helpful to understand the process by which juries are selected so that you know what to expect when you get there. If you’ve been charged with a criminal offense in the state, understanding jury selection becomes even more important, because when you understand the process better, you may also be better equipped to participate in your own defense. Here is what you need to know about the process.
In general, the state calls 50 to 60 potential jurors at a time for jury selection. The judge makes an opening statement and then proceeds to question the jurors. During this time, some of the questions might be directed at the jury as a whole. Others might be directed at particular jurors, or at those who gave a particular answer to a previous question. The judge determines these questions, usually with the help of the attorneys, and the process is designed to allow both attorneys to become more familiar with the jury pool as a whole. This is called the voir dire phase.
During the voir dire period, attorneys may challenge jurors for cause to get them dismissed from the pool. Jurors must have revealed a legal reason for disqualifying them from service to be dismissed by such a challenge. Once that period is over, though, the peremptory challenge period begins. During this phase:
- Either computer selection or a qualified and trustworthy random drawing of names occurs to decide the order in which jurors will be presented.
- After the juror’s name is presented, the prosecutor is asked what the state says. The responses are to excuse the juror, present the juror, or swear in the juror.
- If excused, jurors are seated at the back of the courtroom.
- Otherwise, the defense is asked the same question.
- The process is repeated until twelve jurors have been seated and sworn in, at which point jury selection has concluded.
Since the jury is in charge of weighing the evidence and deciding the case, the selection of a fair and impartial one is one of the most important factors. Anyone facing charges should have a firm understanding of how jurors work and why they are so important. If you are in this situation, in addition to studying the details of jury selection, you should look for an experienced attorney who understands how to make the most of this process.