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The Importance of Jury Selection

By Emily Kelley, Esq.

Recently, I read a Denver Post Article about Arapahoe County District Court Judge Carlos Samour calling 9,000 potential jurors for the James Holmes Arapahoe Movie Theater shooting trial. [1] According to the Denver Post, if you life in Arapahoe County, that means that you have approximately a one-in-fifty chance of being summoned for jury trial and being a part of one of the largest jury pools ever called in United States history. By comparison, approximately 500 potential jurors were summoned for the George Zimmerman trial [2] and 276 potential jurors were summoned for the Kobe Bryant trial. [3] The potential jurors will fill out questionnaires to determine if they are eligible and appropriate to hear the controversial and widely publicized case. Jury selection will start in January and the trial is currently scheduled to start in June.

It's not uncommon for people to complain about jury duty and some may think the process is even silly. Robert Frost said, "A jury consists of twelve persons chosen to decide who has the better lawyer." And in the James Holmes case, 9,000 potential jurors will be told to take time out of their lives to come to a courthouse and fill out a questionnaire to determine if they get to come back to that courthouse months later for more questioning, to see if they get to come back again for a trial. The whole process can seem tedious and unnecessary.

So why have so many people been called for this case? According to Judge Samour, "[i]t will be much easier to call off prospective jurors who are not needed than it will be to adjust if there are insufficient prospective jurors." While 9,000 is a lot of potential jurors, this is arguably one of the most publicized crimes in recent history. In addition to the media attention, controversial issues like gun control and mental illness are front and center. It may be very difficult to find twelve individuals who are sufficiently unbiased to hear a case where prosecutors are seeking the death penalty, hence the purpose of those questionnaires. While bias plays a large part in the jury selection process, both the prosecutors and defense attorneys get an opportunity to excuse a certain amount of jurors. Jury selection is also an opportunity for lawyers to develop rapport with the jury and educate them a bit on their theories of the case. In fact, experienced trial attorneys say that cases are won and lost at jury selection, or "voir dire". As cliché as it may sound, it is a cornerstone of our judiciary system.

While the James Holmes case may have the largest jury pool in United States history, the attorneys at Feldmann Nagel have spent years perfecting the art of voir dire and consider it a crucial part of any civil or criminal trial. No matter if your jury pool is 25 or is going to take months to complete – do not handle jury selection on your own. Call the experienced litigation attorneys at Feldmann Nagel to assist you with your court matter.

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