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How are Juries Chosen?

February 14, 2012
Personal Injury Law

The great American poet Robert Frost once wrote, “A jury consists of twelve persons chosen to decide who has the better lawyer.”  In an injury case, having a good Colorado personal injury attorney at trial is obviously very important.  In a civil trial involving a jury, that jury is an incredibly important part of the trail process.  A jury’s duties go far beyond just deciding which party has the better lawyer, no matter what Mr. Frost had to say on the subject.

How does a jury selection start?  The first step is with each county’s jury commission, which maintains a master list of names gathered from county voter registration lists (sometimes supplemented with other lists). A qualified jury pool contains the names of all of the qualified jurors. Qualified jurors must, by law, report for duty and serve on a jury when summoned.[1]

By law, there are no economic, age-related, or occupational exclusions from jury service.  A person can serve on a jury if they:

  • Are  18 years of age or older
  • Reside at least 50% of the time in the county or municipality from which they were summoned, regardless of whether or not they are registered to vote
  • Are a U.S. Citizen
  • Can read, speak, and understand the English language
  • Haven’t served as a juror within the preceding twelve months
  • Are not the sole caregiver for a permanently disabled person living in the same household
  • Do not have a physical or mental disability affecting their ability to serve as a juror

Colorado has a “One day/one trial” system.  A juror chosen to be on a jury for a trial will only serve for the duration of that trial, usually about three days.  All the other individuals not chosen are released.

One step in choosing a jury is the process of “voir dire” (French for “to see the truth”).  Through voir dire, the attorneys and the judge try to discern if prospective jurors are able to be fair and impartial.  A good personal injury attorney will know how to use voir dire to obtain the best possible jury for his or her case.  Sometimes if a potential juror knows someone involved in the case, or if there is some other reason apparent that they will not be able to act fairly as a juror, the attorney can request to exclude the juror.  Another way of excluding jurors is a peremptory challenge, where there is no requirement of giving a reason for excluding a juror.  Each side is limited on the number of such challenges they can use.  Eventually, a jury of twelve people is selected.

Personal injury attorneys depend upon good jurors to bring about just verdicts in their cases.  Remember, Mr. Frost was wrong:  jurors are not just arbiters of the attorneys presenting the parties.  Jurors have a grave responsibility to evaluate all of the information presented to them and apply the applicable law correctly.  Additional specific information regarding jury service is available at the Colorado state website, which provides a list of frequently asked questions and answers about jury service at Judicial Branch.

[1] There are many discussions about what happens during jury duty, but one of the best synopses is in a publication of the Colorado Bar Association, Colorado Court System, updated by the Honorable Julie E. Anderson.

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