As discussed in our lesson and readings, jury selection is a process where the prosecutor and defense
attorney, under the direction of the judge, select jurors to sit on a jury. Each side may challenge a potential juror
in the jury pool on the basis of cause, citing some specific issue with that jurors background or comments
during voir dire. The defense attorney and prosecutor may also remove a potential juror by using one of their
preemptory challenges where they do not need to cite a reason for the jurors removal.
But in a case where the death penalty may be imposed, jurors in the pool are first death penalty qualified
during general voir dire, on the basis that they can follow the law and in fact impose the death penalty prior to
being selected to sit on the jury. in essence, the voir dire process in a death penalty case has two distinct
phases. Lets look at the following scenario as we examine both the general voir dire process and qualifying
jurors in a death penalty case.
Slick, age 29, has a long-standing criminal record that involves drug abuse, burglaries, breaking and enterings,
and assorted theft offenses. One night he enters Long’s Carryout armed with a hand gun. While under the
influence of drugs, he approaches the clerk at the counter and demands all the cash in the register. As the
clerk opens the drawer, Slick is startled by a customer he did not realize was in the store. Thinking the person
is reaching for a gun, Slick turns and shoots the customer in the chest, killing him. As he turns back to the
clerk, he grabs the cash from her and stuffs it in his pocket. But then he realizes she has seen what he has
done. Consumed with fear, Slick jumps over the counter and grabs the woman dragging her by her hoodie to
the back of the store into the manager’s office. There he grabs some more money on the manager’s desk. As
he begins to leave, he turns back to the clerk and shoots her two times in the face, killing her instantly.
The clerk, Ms. Ray, was a 46-year-old woman. She was a divorced mother of two small children, who took the
clerk position as a part-time job to make ends meet. The customer in the store, Mr. Franklin was 45 years old
and an army veteran who had fallen on hard times. He was homeless at the time when he was killed, not
employed and estranged from his family.
Juror 1: She is a female who works for the state. She had been employed by the state for 25 years. She is
married with four children. Her husband is a veteran who is employed at a private cement company.
Juror 2: He is a 70-year-old retired man, divorced but remarried. He worked for an insurance company as an
adjuster. He has four children, one of which is a police officer.
Juror 3: She is a 21-year-old college student studying political science. She identifies herself as a progressive
democrat. She is very supportive of various causes on campus, including the legalization of drugs and the
decriminalization of drug offenses and certain sentencing reform measures. Two years ago, she was a victim of
a robbery offense where the suspect threw her on the ground while snatching her purse. She is single with no
Juror 4: He is a 55-year-old minister who is head pastor at his church. He is married with one daughter. He is
active in a prison ministry program that goes into local prisons to work with inmates.
Juror 5: She is 28-year-old stay-at-home mom with two children. Her husband works as a mechanic. Four
years prior, there home was burglarized. The person was caught and prosecuted for the crime and is now
serving a prison term.
Based on the following information, lets examine the voir dire process generally and in a death penalty case.
Answer the following.
What are preemptory challenges and challenges for cause?
From the prosecutions stand point, which juror (listed above) may they exercise a preemptory challenge or a
challenge for cause? Explain your reasoning.
From the defense’s stand point, which juror (listed above) may they exercise a preemptory challenge or a
challenge for cause? Explain your reasoning.
What are Batson Challenges, and how can they impact the jury selection process?
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