Now the jurors are back in the hall and the attorneys are in the courtroom conferring with the judge about some of the responses from the panel members. The judge will ask the bailiff to individually call one or more of the panel members back into the courtroom to further discuss the juror’s answers or comments during the voir dire process. This is probably the most intimidating part of the jury selection process. However, do not be intimidated, and here’s why.
Each party has a limited number of “strikes” that may be freely used (also known as “peremptory challenges”). In Texas, each side may exercise up to six (6) strikes in district court, while each side has three (3) available strikes in the lower courts. However, the judge may strike an unlimited number of jurors so long as there is good cause to believe that the juror is unfit to serve. “Good cause” exists if the judge believes that the juror is bias, is unlikely to follow the court’s instructions, or for some other compelling reason. The reason a juror might be called in for individual questioning is because one of the attorneys wants the judge to strike the juror for cause. If an attorney is successful in convincing the judge to strike the juror for cause, then that attorney is able to save his strikes for other jurors.
However, judges are reluctant to strike jurors because the more jurors they strike, then fewer panel members are available to seat a complete jury. Likewise, the judge will most likely attempt to “rehabilitate” a juror. The judge may ask: “Do you think you can set aside your beliefs and follow the court’s instructions?” or “Can you fairly evaluate the evidence and follow the court’s instructions despite your beliefs?” If your honest answer is “No,” then say so and don’t be swayed or feel intimidated into saying something that you don’t truthfully believe. Let me re-emphasize something I said earlier in this series: You cannot get in trouble for being truthful about your beliefs. Stick to your guns. If you depart from your beliefs or opinions just because you are intimidated, then you are doing the parties, the court, and the judicial system a great injustice.
Once the attorneys and the judge have completed their individual assessment of the jurors, the judge will tell the attorneys to exercise their strikes by writing them down and handing them to the judge. If you are not stricken by the judge, you may still be stricken by one of the attorneys. But remember, each party only has a limited number of strikes and the attorney may choose to use his strikes for other jurors. Once all the strikes are accounted for, the judge will then go through the jury list and delete the stricken jurors. The first twelve jurors (or six in the lower courts) who were not stricken are officially seated as jurors.
If you remember earlier I stated that the panel members who stay silent are usually the ones that get picked. Now that I have explained the jury selection process, you can see why. Unless there was something questionable in the juror’s information card, a quiet juror gives the judge and attorneys no reason to strike them. That is why the quiet ones normally get selected for jury duty.