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Impaneling

During the jury empanelment stage of both civil and criminal trials, there are inevitably some prospective jurors who raise their hands when asked whether service would impose an extreme and unusual hardship. Generally, those jurors are excused. Other prospective juror may feel that there is a reason that they cannot be impartial and, in that instance, the judge will ask questions of them at “side bar” to determine if the person can decide the case fairly.

Very rarely does a civil case involve a serious and high profile accident, which has been extensively covered in the local news. In such a situation it can be difficult to find jurors whose opinions have not been so tainted by their prior knowledge of the case, calling into question their impartiality. Again, this is quite unusual for a civil case, such as an accident case or otherwise, but I do know of one where the judge and attorneys were able to seat only eleven jurors (three short of the desired fourteen), having excused more than eighty other prospective jurors. In the more typical personal injury case, which is different from a high profile criminal case, there will not have been publicity, so there is no fear of jury taint on that account. The idea is to obtain a level playing field, and the judge will declare the jury indifferent, really meaning impartial, at the close of jury selection. An excused juror will hopefully not feel insulted for when a lawyer exercises a peremptory challenge—deleting a juror not for cause—it is based on an intuitive feeling and it is not attributable to any failing on the excused juror’s part.

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