The Trial Process in Texas: Jury Selection
The BeginningThe trial process can be so complicated that entire books are written on it. Once again, a trial never moves as quickly and smoothly as those TV dramas, but trials are indeed a fascinating part of the civil justice system.
When a case is eventually called to trial, each side will present its case to the jury. The length of the case depends on the complexity of the legal matter as well as the temperament of the presiding judge. Some judges move cases along much faster than others.
Vior dire--Plaintiff Goes FirstThe trial process starts out with voir dire, which is Latin for "to speak the truth." The voir dire process is also called jury selection, but it's really designed to eliminate who you don't want on your jury. A jury panel is brought into the courtroom, each with an assigned number. After the judge educates the jury panel on the voir dire process, the Plaintiff's attorney starts the case by asking the jury members questions. The main purpose of these questions is to try and determine which panel members will not be good for the case. For example, if you are suing a doctor, you probably don't want a juror who's in the medical profession or has family members or close friends in the medical profession.
The StrikesAfter the Plaintiff's attorney finishes asking questions, the Defendant's attorney gets to ask the jury panel questions as well. The defense attorney obviously wants to find out which of the jury panel members will possibly be overly sympathetic to the Plaintiff. At the conclusion of the voir dire process, each side gets to "strike" the panel members that their side finds most undesirable. In Texas District Court, each side is generally given six strikes (each side is usually allowed three strikes in Texas County Court). In District Court, the judge then calls the first 12 panel members who are not stricken by either side (for County Court, it is the first six members) and these people are now the jury members which will hear and decide the case. In a perfect world, the voir dire process will eliminate the people who have biases for or against one of the sides resulting in 12 fair and impartial jurors. However, it's extremely hard to select a perfect jury since there are so many