Criminal Procedures

Trial Process

What types of challenges are available to strike jurors?

There are two types of challenges to remove prospective jurors. The first is a for-cause challenge. These are used to remove those people who clearly evince an obvious bias and cannot decide a case impartially. If there was an auto accident case involving an insurance company and a prospective juror exclaimed during voir dire—“I hate insurance companies.” That might be enough for the presiding judge to find that the person could not decide the case impartially and could be dismissed for cause.

The other type of challenge is a peremptory challenge. This means that an attorney can strike the juror peremptorily for any reason, such as simply a hunch that the person would not be a good juror for their side. While lawyers have broad leeway with their peremptory challenges, they do have unfettered discretion. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Batson v. Kentucky (1986; see LegalSpeak, above)—a burglary case involving defendant James Batson—that prosecutors violated the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment by striking jurors based on race. Later, in J.E.B. v. Alabama (1994) the Court also ruled that attorneys could not exercise their peremptory challenges in a gender discriminatory way.


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