Serving as a member of a jury may not be your first choice of free time activities, but it is an extremely important part of our country's legal process. By selecting the right people, the courts can ensure a fair and unbiased decision making process. However, there are certain state laws and rules that need to be followed to ensure that a fair trial is given, and sometimes these rules result in dismissals. For example, in the recently concluded trial of James Holmes, there were 19 jurors including 7 alternates. However, there were 5 jurors that were dismissed for various reasons.

One of the jurors was dismissed because she knew one of the witnesses, which would inevitably bias the outcome of her decision in the case. Another juror had been dismissed because it was thought that she was emotionally unstable owing to the fact that her brother-in-law had been shot in an armed robbery only one week prior. As a point of interest though, the judge had misgivings and wasn't sure that the juror was being entirely honest.

Of the remaining three dismissals, each juror claimed that they were worried and concerned about the negative consequences they could encounter from media coverage. Yet again, there was suspicion that they were not being truthful. However, dismissals are only part of the equation. You also need to understand how jurors are chosen in the first place.

The Juror Selection Process

The juror selection process varies a little from state to state, but Colorado's system is not so different from other states' processes. It all starts by randomly selecting individuals from the voter registration lists, driver license records, and the Colorado state adult issued identification records. This is done using an unbiased computer program. After the initial group of candidates has been gathered for jury service, jurors are then selected for a trial from this group. Every year, the lists are redone, removing duplicate names and the names of deceased citizens.

When someone is selected for a jury, they are sent a summons and a qualification questionnaire that can either be filed physically or electronically. However, to be qualified, the juror must meet certain criteria. First and foremost, they need to be at least 18 years of age. Furthermore, they also need to have a firm grasp on the English language and possess the skills to read, write, and speak English. Of course, the person must also be a legal resident of Colorado.

Once in a courtroom, attorneys on both sides may ask additional questions and ask the court to excuse a juror or a number of jurors for specific reasons. Some of these challenges do no need a reason (each side is allowed a number of these) but they cannot be based on discrimination.

Exceptions to becoming a Juror

There are a few things that bar people from serving as a juror. If they have committed a misdemeanor or a felony that results in one year inside of a prison, they are not eligible. Furthermore, they must also have a healthy body and mind. If an individual has a disability or condition – either physical or mental – that prevents them from serving, they are exempt from becoming a juror. Lastly, there are certain occupations – such as military roles, political roles, and public service roles – that also bar people from serving as a juror.

For even more information and answers regarding jury duty and selection in Colorado, the Colorado Judicial Branch has a great page of frequently asked questions.

Image via Colorado Judicial Branch