Jury selection 101

Who gets to pick the jury and how? Who can object? Can we trust the selection system? 

We’ve been asked to publish information on how juries are selected in Australia. The following general processes apply to all Australian jurisdictions.

How are jurors selected?

Names are randomly chosen from the electoral roll to be called for jury service. The next stage of the process is ‘empanelling’.

Empanelling a jury

Once the trial is ready to commence, potential jurors are taken in groups into the courtroom. This is where members of the jury are selected.

The names of people involved in the trial will be read out. This will include witnesses, police, the accused and legal representatives. If any in the jury group know any of these they must advise the judge.

The judge’s associate draws out juror numbers from a ballot box, who are asked to take a seat in the jury box.

Challenging jurors

In criminal trials the accused is brought before the court and the jury panel to be formally charged with offences (a process known as ‘arraignment’). Charges are read out and the accused pleads to each charge.

Once the selected jurors are in the jury box, the juror numbers are called a second time. Both the prosecutor and the defence counsel can challenge (reject) a juror without giving reasons. They are each allowed a maximum of three challenges. This is not a personal reflection on potential jurors. This is a right under our laws.

Those not included in the final jury selection because of a challenge must remain at the court complex in case they are needed for another trial. A sheriff’s officer will release them.

The court calls on prospective jurors who seek to be excused by the trial judge. The judge may excuse a person from service if satisfied that the person will be unable to consider the case impartially or is unable to serve for any other reason. A person who is excused must return to the jury pool and may be selected or allocated to a different jury panel.

Swearing in a jury    

Once the challenges have been exhausted and there is a full panel of jurors, each person who has been selected is asked to take an oath (swear to god) or an affirmation (promise to the court) to carry out his or her task faithfully and impartially.

The jury chooses a representative or foreperson, who will deliver the verdict at the end of the trial and answer any question the court may ask the jury. Other than these responsibilities, the foreperson has the same responsibilities as any other juror. Any person on the jury can be the foreperson.

Privacy and safety

The objectives of preventing jury tampering and the avoidance of threats and actual danger to jury members could not be achieved if the accused was to be informed of the identity of the panel members and subsequent jurors.

FURTHER READING

Juries or judges – or both?

Can juries get it wrong?

The system for selecting ‘your peers’ has no filters for intelligence, literacy, scientific aptitude or honesty. Your peers may turn out to be lacking in various qualities …. In today’s courts, juries will often be faced with technical and/or scientific/forensic evidence that would challenge most people. Just one example: in the trial of Robert Xie for the murder of five members of his wife’s family, it took a couple of forensic scientists two weeks to describe the crime scene and autopsy evidence of the brutal murders. It is arguable that the prosecution was keen to burden the jury with such a barrage of information to overcome the weaknesses of their case, expecting that the volume of argument would convince the jury of its probative value. It did. Sadly, in our view, it did so wrongly.

 

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17 Responses to Jury selection 101

  1. Whalensky says:

    No need for a trial–except for the man what done it– (we even know his name) How the hell does one keep the police ,the judge and the prosecutor out of it ? There is no answer !

  2. WHALENSKY says:

    So that’s how juries are selected–I just presumed — silly me–read for yourself the Joe Jury selection process²-OK tell me that was an isolated HOT SHOT case–a special event . Some of these selected Jury persons go on to deliver the desired outcomes in further cases– on a different note– same subject–Raymond Bailey and Police Good Boys–i presume we can dig him up– How about Darryl Beamish– the Police were going to plant him like a petunia–Raymond Bailey was murdered by the state– the jury was probably stacked Queensland Style–and there were so many holes in the first class prosecution case–one can presume that his defence team decided to bury the poor barstead–did you read what the BIG STRONG POLICEMaN DID TO THE INNOCENT MANS pregnant little WIFE– before they systematically murdered the poor little feller–take a look at the smurk on the gun slingers moosh– murdering an innocent man–thats the ultimate policeeyman achievement–plus you’re share of brothel monies and free jiggy jigs ! And you can steal stuff from motorists at traffic stops with total immunity ! Mind you when 2 Plain Clothes Hotshots stole the valuable tools from my MGB– my very-senior QUEENSLAND Gov.Daddy GOT THEM BACK QUICK SMART- one phone call –

  3. WHALENSKY says:

    Tasmania is no worse than any other state–that’s just silly ! The whole justice system is rotten– juries are stacked–defence teams are lazy and incompetent–prosecution teams don’t even begin to understand justice–they lie-cheat- plant evidence- withhold evidence–use well practiced techniques to get confessions– OH–I nearly forgot– the classic verbal and confession to a cell mate. Even in the most trivial contested traffic ticket—lie your effing guts out– OR– no future in the Police Road Traffic Command Force Strike Group any other more lucrative section of the —please read what happened to Mendelssohn Miller NSW POLICE — silly boy ! Should have lied like he was expected too.

  4. WHALENSKY says:

    One can presume you have never been on a jury ? One can read in detail the method used in Sunny Queensland to stack a jury ! One must wonder–is the defence– or in some cases the prosecution very carefully selected–how could a defence take the word of the prosecution as to baby blood sprayed up under a car dashboard without having their own analysis done– game, set and match– the prosecution would be shown for what they were -absolute lying swine ! Oops he fell over–car crash internal injuries– what kind of second rate court can let that crappe go thru to the keeper ! Wouldn’t even the so called fountain of wisdom ( judge) – mmm.thinks – how the hell did SNF get — the person up and out of the cabin– if if I was a judge I would be a pain in the neck to the lying police– would probably have an unfortunate head on– wait on– that was the dear prosecutor– punishment for that bit of fun causing death ? What-$450,000 year.

    • andrew says:

      Yes WHALENSKY, I have served on a jury. My mantra is: never assume anything about anyone.

      • WHALENSKY says:

        I know you will block any criticism–how ever–there are just as detailed an account as to Jury Stacking methods used in the Australian System . So why didn’t you mention this practice ?

        • andrew says:

          The article is about the process of jury selection; jury stacking is altogether a different matter.

          • WHALENSKY says:

            Sorry Andrew–didnt mean to be rude– however- then–i would love to read of you knowledge of Jury Stacking– methods-AND any forms of intimidation– such as if a juror asks the Judge a troublesome question–such as why can’t the defence cut the mustard ? Where did you get the jury foreman ? Then cops a reprimand–such as the classic–you biased ? Would you like to go home ? You bet I’m biased mate– heavily biased towards justice being done–and your Jury foreman we appointed foreman because he’d been a jury foreman before — he gives me diahrear–if that’s bias– then I’m biased your majesty ! Careful sonny–youll get 6 months in the Penn for contempt—in that case can I take the go home option ? (mate).

      • Owen allen says:

        Whalensky, I love you. You are my Brother.
        Over the years I have been told by several people, re Corrupt Tasmania, corruption is everywhere. Yes, I agree, but interstate Capital Cities are where complaints end up, and are followed up. IE, Fitzgerald Enquiry, Costigan Enquiry. But big players are involved and big stakes, and how long does it take. My Brothers Russell and Robert, from my understanding they both have had terrible experience in NSW, and I know about Qld and Victoria where one victim of Police Murder was shot dead, in bed.
        But I, after Tasmania, reckoned if out back small towns are corrupt, go to the city top. Now that may or may not be effective, probably depending on who you are. But in Ballina NSW a couple of years ago, cops bashed a prisoner in the cells. It was denied by the cops, but the camera proved other wise. Crazy eh, it is all crazy.
        The buck stops at the top they say. Another Tasmanian Premier resigns prematurely, does not want to carry the can, and the next sucker will not be briefed. Implosion coming on.
        So my philosophy is; follow your heart. WC has good people contributing, God Bless You All, and Sue Neill-Fraser and family.

  5. Robert Greenshields says:

    Who would realistically want to participate in any life determining decision making process when it is well recorded that impunity from perjury is a well practiced by policing forces and their corrupted, cringe worthy allies and witnesses?

    As a potential or participating juror you are supposed to accept that you are willingly and honestly partaking in an honest and truthful exercise, that is beyond reproach, and a wholesome part of the fabric of our society. Nothing is, or could be further from the truth.

    I am aware of a circumstance where a potential client, who was confronted by choreographed charges by a local cowardly policing cohort, was told by a then local solicitor that he would not win his case in the local court, but would win in another court. Those prophetic words eventually proved correct and the case was thrown out of another court, (after initially been found guilty in the local orchestrated court), followed then by much relocating of pitiful policing officers out of the town and vicinity to other areas. (Not unlike the long term, well practiced moving around those involved in other questionable practices in educational and other organisations.)

    The prior mentioned case, along with other evidence, further confirmed to me the criminality accepted and practiced in NW NSW court jurisdictions (and probably others), it also raised questions by me as to the legitimacy of proceedings when the control of the flow of information was formatted, and though absolutely incredible, accepted by court officers and others involved in the decision making processes as supposedly legitimate and ex cathedra. Involving far less legal experienced citizens as little more than transparent tokens of a community regarded sanction to justify a potential/probable calculated outcome, is as farcical as the colonial styled and founded judicial apparatus we are still confronted with today, and obliged to accept.

    When called for “Jury Duty”, I spoke to the Sheriff at the court, and informed him of my distrust in the system and lack of faith in the honesty and credibility of localised policing and judicial services. To this day I have yet to be called again, and I’m more than comfortable with that. I no more desire to be utilised as a utensile and be manipulated by a well recorded criminalised culture that I have no confidence in. than fly to the moon.

    I have long thought that the jury process was a fundamental farce, used to instill/incorporate a deceitful illusion/image, of presumed transparent justice, consolidated and validated by a manipulatable, malleable community representative cohort, who in most examples, are far less academically or otherwise skilled inclusions. Sadly though, as a more than adequate example, Sue Neill Frasers long term ongoing plight and predicament again confirms, and cements my thoughts and actions. Keep strong Sue.

    • Peter Gill says:

      Robert – wow!
      Can you think of any solutions to the problems?

      • Robert Greenshields says:

        Discontinue the culture and standards of the continued and accepted status quo, including police recruiting and training, would be a reasonable starting point Peter. Recruiting thugs, thieves, liars, and psychologically mangled misfits, along with cultured, institutionalised bullies, as transparently evident from a most recent NT case, is not defensible.

        While egregious, tertiary qualified only boffins, enthusiastically debate points of law that date back centuries after intertwining them with todays societies, practices and cultures as either defining or leverage, I doubt that mere citizen jurors would have the comprehension to understand the fundamental basics.

        Sue Neill Frasers case alone, is a classic example of why the cultures and system needs to be overturned/overhauled. The processes and recognised conduits to natural justice in Tasmania are obviously defunct, and token undereducated, manipulatable jurors, unable to recognise deceitful, choreographed, misinformation as evidence, sitting in judgement, is no longer plausible.

        Higher courts have a number of educated and skilled judges making final decisions; that mode of assessment, multiple enlightened judges, instead of 12 layman/part time, egoists and any others, might just be a conduit to improved and updated judicial outcomes.

        A willingness to cull the accepted legal and administrative cultures of yesteryears status quo, is the initiating point, and the dynamism of that alone could well result in far less injustice.

        • WHALENSKY says:

          So that’s how juries are selected–I just presumed -read for yourself the Joe Jury selection-OK tell me that was an isolated HOT SHOT case–a special event . Some of these selected Jury persons go on to deliver the desired outcomes in further cases– on a different note– same subject–Raymond Bailey and Police Good Boys–i presume we can dig him up– How about Darryl Beamish– the Police were going to plant him like a petunia–Raymond Bailey was murdered by the state– the jury was probably stacked Queensland Style–and there were so many holes in the first class prosecution case–one can presume that his defence team decided to bury the poor barstead–did you read what the BIG STRONG POLICEMaN DID TO THE INNOCENT MANS pregnant little WIFE– before they systematically murdered the poor little feller–take a look at the smurk on the gun slingers moosh– murdering an innocent man–thats the ultimate policeeyman achievement–plus you’re share of brothel monies and free jiggy jigs ! And you can steal stuff from motorists at traffic stops with total immunity ! Mind you when 2 Plain Clothes Hotshots stole the valuable tools from my MGB– my very-senior QUEENSLAND Gov.Daddy GOT THEM BACK QUICK SMART- one phone call –

  6. Peter says:

    The only trial where I’ve attended the jury selection process was the first of the four Robert Xie trials. The prosecutor and defence barrister didn’t ask the prospective jurors any questions (which are allowed in USA but I think are not allowed in Australia) – they just objected to quite a few people, based on looks or whatever. I wondered which side would object to prospective jurors who looked Asian or Chinese.

    A Chinese man Robert Xie was on trial for killing the Chinese family of his brother-in-law in Epping NSW. The prosecution bobbed all over the place from one trial to another regarding motive (off-topic – they did the same regarding the so-called evidence). At that early stage, a key motive was that “loss of face” is big in the Chinese community and that somehow “loss of face” was a motive though I totally failed to see how or why it had anything to do with the facts or with the people involved.

    I asked a couple of my Chinese friends in Sydney about this Chinese “loss of face” idea – they both told me it sounded like rubbish to them but they couldn’t be sure. With that background info, which side do you think would object to prospective jurors with Chinese or Asian looks?

    I will answer that later. Feel free to have a guess.

    Soon the trial started, and the jurors were sworn in. I expected the prosecutor to begin the trial with his Opening. Instead, the defence barrister handed the Judge a long list of objections to the prosecutor’s Opening, before we had heard that Opening. The Judge read through it, nodding Yes here and there, saying “good point” occasionally and asking a few questions, before retiring to his chambers to read through it in more detail. There was a massive delay. Then things started getting weirder and weirder. Sorry, I’m getting off-topic again. The jury were sent out of the courtroom during this delay.

    The entire four trials were the most bizarre courtroom experience I’ve ever seen. If it was a TV show, it would be dismissed as unbelievable. I later met two people who did not know each other and who each randomly attended the court and (like me) got addicted to going along to see the craziness of a trial where virtually every shred of evidence made no sense to us (a bit like the Sue Neill Fraser trial, but even more so). One of them has posted comments on this website and the other hasn’t.

    The first two trials were aborted. Towards the end of the third trial, it became pretty obvious to us courtwatchers (who at that time still had never met) that a hung jury was almost inevitable. Alas, for the fourth trial, the excellent defence barrister was no longer available – that swung the tide the wrong way, so Robert Xie ended up in jail. A sad outcome. But this is NSW, where the current official attitude to the scientific experts in the Folbigg case shows how strange our justice system has become under Mr Speakman’s leadership or lack thereof, so there’s not much to be done.

    Are trials by Judge-alone any better? I went to one of those and am not convinced. It depends so much on the Judge.

  7. Rodger Warren says:

    It is time to question if Trial by Jury is the best way to ensure a fair trial.
    A jury trial certainly did not ensure Sue Neill-Fraser got a fair trial.
    Take care
    Rodger Warren

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