Before a trial can begin, a jury—one that meets all qualifications and satisfies both prosecutors and defense attorneys—must be selected. This is done through a process called “voir dire,” and it begins with a group of randomly-selected potential jurors, also known as a “venire.”
The process of selecting names for the venire varies by jurisdiction. Some states compile juror lists from voter registration rolls or other lists, such as driver’s license lists supplied by the DMV. Sometimes, a jury commissioner is appointed by a judge to help compile jury lists.
In most states, potential jurors are pre-screened by a court official in order to eliminate unqualified candidates. To be eligible for jury duty, a citizen must be at least 18 years old, reside in the court’s jurisdiction, have the right to vote and be a U.S. citizen.
Candidates who meet these basic requirements then will be subject to questioning by the judge, the prosecution and the defense attorneys. Through the process of voir dire, attorneys attempt to uncover any potential biases or preconceived notions about the trial at hand. Attorneys on both sides of the case are allowed to strike potential jurors that they feel may not render an unbiased decision. Lawyers also may strike candidates that they feel simply might vote for the opposing side, even if the potential juror seems unbiased and is otherwise qualified.
In some cases, potential jurors may be excused due to their professional duties; however, this practice has become less common.