The process of jury selection is one of the most important aspects of a trial. The judgment and capability of the jurors are what separates you from being behind bars. It is important that you are informed on how a grand jury is chosen.
Jury selection is an important component of a trial, and jurors are chosen through a system called voir dire. During this phase, both the defense and prosecution can identify if any jurors are biased. An experienced defense attorney can assess a room of jurors, ask the right questions, and weed out any parties who can significantly hurt your trial’s outcome
Houston Attorney for Jury Selection in Harris County
The Texas Constitution and the United States Constitution states a person has a right to a trial by jury. It’s also a constitutional right that an impartial jury is selected for your trial. If you or someone you know has a court date for a jury trial, it’s highly advised that you seek a knowledgeable attorney.
Jury selection is a complex process, and thankfully the defense does have a part in it. A skilled attorney can gather information about potential jurors and determine if they are showing any sort of pre-conceived judgments.
Brian Benken is a seasoned attorney with over 30 years of practice in law. He thoroughly understands the jury selection process. Attorney Brian Benken will do whatever it takes to create trust and respect from the jury. He can emphasize the importance of reasonable doubt, and catch any jurors who have bias during voir dire.
Do what is best for you. Call Brian Benken at (713) 223 - 4051, he practices throughout all parts of Harris County and surrounding communities including Alief, Brays Oaks, Meyerland, Sharpstown, and Midtown.
Overview for Jury Selection in Harris County
- How a Juror is Summoned in Texas
- Texas Process of Voir Dire
- Importance of Voir Dire
- How to Be Excused from Jury Duty in Texas
- Additional Resources
How a Juror is Summoned in Texas
A person doesn’t need any special skills or legal knowledge to be considered qualified for jury duty. The Texas Secretary of State creates juror pools and sends a list to Harris County courts. All individuals in a jury pool are either registered to vote, hold a Texas identification card, or holds a Texas driver’s license. An individual is chosen randomly on the list and sent a summons for jury service in the mail.
A person must meet the following requirements to serve as a juror:
- Be 18 years of age or older;
- Be a legal citizen of the United States;
- Be a Texas resident;
- Be a resident of Harris County, Texas;
- Be qualified to vote under U.S. Constitution, it is not a requirement to be registered to vote to serve on a jury;
- Be of good moral character and mentally stable;
- Have the ability to read or write;
- Didn’t serve as a juror for six days during the last three months in Texas county court;
- Didn’t serve as a juror during the last six months in a Texas district court;
- No convictions, indictments, or other legal accusations for a misdemeanor or a felony charge(s).
The Process of Voir Dire in Jury Selection
Once the jury pool is gathered at court, the voir dire phase will begin. The purpose of this phase is to narrow down the 60-80 person pool to that of 12 people for the trial. This phase is also used to judge the character of the current jurors and catch any implicit or explicit bias that may skew the trial.
Voir dire does not always look the same for every judge. In some cases the jurors are interviewed privately, in other cases they are interviewed publically in front of the other jurors. Normally, a judge and the appointed attorneys will ask the jurors questions about their backgrounds and beliefs.
The point of this is to obtain information about pre-existing knowledge they may have on the case or any characteristics that may seem problematic for a fair trial. For instance, if a person does not believe in making judgments for religious reasons, he or she may be excused from the jury trial.
During the voir dire process, attorneys can call out any jurors they deem unqualified or unable to be fair. There are two types of objections a defense or prosecuting attorney can make, “challenges for cause” and “peremptory challenges.” Both of these are limited, and cannot be based on the race or gender of that juror.
A “challenge for cause” usually pertains to the fact the attorney believes the juror’s background might make them biased for this trial. For example, a defense attorney may call “challenge for cause” on a juror who was a police officer if the trial was surrounding a police brutality case.
A “peremptory challenge” allows an attorney from either side to remove a potential juror from the jury. Attorneys do not need to give reasons for peremptory challenges, but they cannot be made because of discriminatory reasons such as race, class or gender.
The Importance of Voir Dire in Jury Selection
Voir dire is one of the most important phases before a trial. A biased juror can be the difference between a reduced or dismissed charge. However, an effective defense attorney can ask the important questions, collect information, and use their objections appropriately.
The following are some actions a practiced attorney would do in voir dire:
- Develop an appropriate rapport and earn the trust and respect of the jury;
- Create an image of a multi-dimensional person for the defendant as a way to humanize him or her for the upcoming defense;
- Introduced the American justice system concept of presumed innocent until and unless found guilty beyond a reasonable doubt;
- Educate the jurors about both parties and the defense’s respective theory on the case;
- Introduce the jury to any potential problem areas in the upcoming case; and
- Emphasize the importance and serious nature of jury service, and how the outcomes may affect the defendant.
How to be Excused from Jury Duty in Texas
In Texas, not every person has the ability to attend jury duty. If an individual has a criminal history or has certain responsibilities, he or she may be excused from serving as a juror.
A person may be excused from jury duty if he or she:
- Is over the age of 70 years old;
- Is a current student of a public or private secondary school;
- Is a caretaker for a child younger 12 years old or younger, and jury service requires the person to leave the child without supervision;
- Is an officer, employee of the state, house of representatives, or any type of job that is for the legislative branch of government;
- Is a primary caretaker for a person who is unable to care for himself or herself, this does not apply for health care workers;
- Served as a petit juror in the county during the 24-month period after the date you were given to appear for this summons;
- Lives in a county with a population of at least $250,000 and served as a petit juror during the three year period after that summons;
- You are a current member of the United States Military Forces and are actively deployed to a location away from the county or your home station;
Jury Service as a Civic Duty – Visit the official website for the Texas Judicial Branch, and find more information surrounding jury service and selection. Read more on how to be qualified for a juror, when you can be excused, and advice for a juror’s first day of service.
Texas Uniform Jury Handbook – Visit the official website for the Harris County District Courts. Find more information surrounding the importance of jury service, the difference between civil and criminal jury trials, and answers to frequently asked questions for jurors. Additionally, gain access to a PDF for the Texas Jury Handbook.
Harris County Lawyer for Jury Selection in Texas
Have you been criminally charged recently? Is the summons for your jury trial about to begin? It is important that you have trusted legal representation during the voir dire process. Brian Benken is an experienced attorney who has participated in numerous jury selections.
Attorney Brian Benken is passionate about criminal defense. He has over 30 years of experience representing individuals in the Texas court system. Brian Benken understands the jury selection process and knows the right questions to ask to find biased jury members. Do not wait another moment. Call Brian Benken at (713) 223 - 4051 for a free consultation today.
The Benken Law Firm represents those accused of crimes throughout all parts of Harris County including River Oaks, Magnolia Parks, Greenspoint, and Gulftown.
This article was last updated on October 12, 2018.