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Why Does Jury Duty Sometimes Take Forever?

By Stephanie Rabiner, Esq. on April 20, 2011 7:05 AM

There are very few people out there who rejoice when they receive a jury summons.

No matter the case, the number one complaint of prospective jurors is the excruciating amount of time it takes for the judge and attorneys to whittle down the jury pool.

What gives?

Whether it's a civil or criminal suit, the law requires that a jury be unbiased. Weeding out potentially biased jurors isn't as easy as it sounds.

The process by which attorneys select a jury is known as "voir dire." Both parties are permitted to excuse a certain number of jurors from the pool--some for no reason at all, and others for a show of bias. Judges may also excuse jurors as they see fit.

In order to get to the point where jurors can be excused, it's necessary to ask a host of questions about each person's background and experience with the law. The goal is to ascertain if a juror may show some bias either for or against a party.

It may seem intrusive, but the only way a prosecutor will know if a potential juror will believe an officer's testimony is to ask whether he or his family have had any run-ins with the law.

Every question is designed to illicit a response that may show how a juror will analyze evidence and whether he will do so fairly.

So while you don't have to enjoy yourself the next time you're called in for jury duty, keep in mind that the process isn't about making you miserable--it's about maintaining a fair and balanced justice system.

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