Legal Studies 3080

Challenging the Selection of Prospective Jurors

The Criminal Code allows for each side to challenge the selection of prospective jurors in three ways. They are explained in what follows.

The first type is called a challenge for cause. Either side can challenge any juror for a reason such as an inability to understand English or anything about the juror's history or demeanor that suggest he or she might be biased.

The next type of challenge is the peremptory challenge. Each side is allowed a limited number of challenges of this sort; the difference here is that no reason need be given for peremptory challenges.

The third type of challenge is a challenge of the entire jury list. This does not happen often, and it usually involves a situation where the list was originally put together in a manner that was not impartial. If, for example, the defendant was a man charged with a brutal sexual assault against a woman and it turned out that everyone on the jury list was a woman, the defendant's lawyer might challenge the whole list.

Once the jury has been selected and sworn in, the judge informs the jurors of their duties. During the trial, the jurors are not allowed to discuss the case with anyone outside the jury. In most cases, they can go home at night, but sometimes a judge has a jury sequestered throughout the trial.

When a jury is sequestered, the jurors cannot have contact with the outside world until they have delivered their verdict. As you can imagine, this can be quite a burden on jurors during a lengthy trial, but it is their duty as Canadian citizens. The reason for sequestering is to ensure that the jurors are basing their decision on evidence and testimony in the courtroom and not on outside information.

Trial by jury goes back to the early days in the evolution of our criminal justice system. It is based on the belief that when people are accused of a crime, their peers are in the best position to decide on their guilt or innocence. Getting at the truth is never an exact science, but letting an impartial panel of citizens listen to both sides make the best case they can and picking the one they find most believable seems to be a fair process.

After a jury has been selected, the two sides in a trial start presenting evidence . This is what you will be looking at in the next lesson.