Jury selection in the United States

Jury selection in the United States is the choosing of members of grand juries and petit juries for the purpose of conducting trial by jury in the United States.

Voir dire

During voir dire, potential jurors are questioned by attorneys and/or the judge. It has been argued that voir dire is often ineffective at detecting juror bias.[1] Extended voir dire in major controlled substance trials may increase accuracy in predicting individual verdicts from 50% to 78%.[2]


In the federal system, jury selection is governed by the Jury Selection and Service Act and by the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure in criminal cases, and by the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure in civil cases. In capital cases, each side gets 20 peremptory strikes. In other felony cases, the defendant gets 10 peremptory strikes and the government gets 6. In misdemeanor cases, each side has 3 peremptory strikes.[3]


Each U.S. state has its own system, which is subject to the requirements of the U.S. Constitution.


Impartiality Clause

Vicinage Clause

Main article: Vicinage Clause

Federal criminal petit juries are required to be composed of residents of the state and federal judicial district wherein the crime was committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law.


Research supports the hypothesis that the juror selection process effectively discriminates against the poor, racial minorities, women, and persons with low and high educational attainment.[4] Claims that errors were made during jury selection are among the most common of all grounds for criminal appeals.[5] The argument has been made that selection of juries for courts-martial is subject to too much control by commanders, who can pick jurors who will be most likely to convict and hand down heavy penalties.[6]

Batson v. Kentucky, 476 U.S. 79 (1986) banned peremptory challenges based solely on race, although the U.S. Supreme Court has since acted to mitigate its impact.[7] The issue of racial bias in jury selection has been complicated by the question of whose rights are implicated; the prospective juror's, or the defendant's.[8] Young people are substantially under-represented on the nation's jury rolls.[9]

A 2012 study from Duke University published in the Quarterly Journal of Economics investigated the effect of jury selection and racial composition on trial outcomes. The study found that black defendants (81%) are significantly more likely than whites (66%) to be convicted when there are no potential black jurors in the pool. Even with only one black member of the jury pool, conviction rates are almost identical (71% for blacks and 73% for whites). While 64% of cases had at least one black potential juror in the pool, only 28% of all trials had one or more black members on the seated jury. "Whenever attorneys use peremptory challenges to strike black members of the pool ... they forgo the possibility of excluding another potential juror with a similar ex ante probability of convicting," and the composition of the jury indirectly reflects that of the juror pool.[10][11]

As of 2014, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals has held that a peremptory challenge based on perceived sexual orientation is unconstitutional.[12]


  1. Hans, Valerie P.; Jehle, Alayna (2003), Avoid Bald Men and People with Green Socks - Other Ways to Improve the Voir Dire Process in Jury Selection, 78, Chi.-Kent L. Rev., p. 1179
  2. Moran, Gary; Cutler, Brian L.; Loftus, Elizabeth F. (Jul–Sep 1990), Jury selection in major controlled substance trials: The need for extended voir dire, 3 (3), Forensic Reports, pp. 331–348
  3. Rule 24, Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure
  4. HR Alker Jr; C Hosticka; M Mitchell (1976), "Jury selection as a biased social process", Law & Society Review, Law and Society Review, 11 (1): 9–41, doi:10.2307/3053202, JSTOR 3053202
  5. Pizzi, William T.; Hoffman, Morris B. (2001), Jury Selection Errors on Appeal, 38, Am. Crim. L. Rev., p. 1391
  6. Smallbridge, Gary C. (1977), 19, A.F. L. Rev., p. 343 http://heinonlinebackup.com/hol-cgi-bin/get_pdf.cgi?handle=hein.journals/airfor19&section=34 Missing or empty |title= (help)
  7. Cavise, Leonard L. (1999), Batson Doctrine: The Supreme Court's Utter Failure to Meet the Challenge of Discrimination in Jury Selection, The, 1999, Wis. L. Rev. 501
  8. Underwood, Barbara D. (1992), Ending Race Discrimination in Jury Selection: Whose Right Is It Anyway, 92, Colum. L. Rev., p. 725
  9. DH Zeigler (1978), "Young Adults as a Cognizable Group in Jury Selection", Michigan Law Review, Michigan Law Review, 76 (7): 1045–1110, doi:10.2307/1287973, JSTOR 1287973
  10. "The Impact of Jury Race in Criminal Trials". JournalistsResource.org, retrieved May 15, 2012
  11. Anwar, Shamena; Bayer, Patrick; Hjalmarsson, Randi (2012). "The Impact of Jury Race in Criminal Trials". Quarterly Journal of Economics. 127: 1017–1055. doi:10.1093/qje/qjs014.
  12. Levine, Dan (June 24, 2013). "UPDATE 1-U.S. court refuses to undo gay rights ruling in pharma case". Reuters. Retrieved July 4, 2014.
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