Each year millions of people across the country are summoned for jury duty, but only a relatively small number actually serve. If you have been called to appear for the preliminary question and answer session but were not one of the jurors selected, you might wonder why. To begin with, you must satisfy legal qualifications, but there also things about you personally that figure into an attorney’s decision about your suitability as a jury member.
First things first
To be qualified to serve on a jury in the United States, you must be at least 18 years of age. You must also be a U.S. citizen and sufficiently proficient in the English language to be able to fill out the juror qualification form, a requirement that often rules out one in 10 working-age adults. In addition, with some exceptions, you must not have been convicted of a felony.
Examining your relationships
If you have law enforcement connections – you have a brother who is a policeman or probation officer, for example – the defense attorney might worry that you might have a bias toward the prosecution. Your social media relationships could also be examined. It is perfectly legal for an interviewer to look at your Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter accounts to see the kinds of groups you belong to and the posts you have made, especially if they relate to topics like politics or campaign contributions.
Taking your appearance into account
A casual hairstyle, comfortable shoes and conservative clothing could make you come off as more open-minded. The more natural your appearance, the more you might be thought of as being receptive, not up-tight or judgmental.
Assessing your attitude
If you are a person with a positive attitude, the attorney who questions you will see that right away, and you will have a much better chance of being selected for jury duty than someone who appears sullen and negative. If you are perceived as a leader, you may be the type of juror who can rally the group around a particular decision. The attorney who questions you will make it a point to observe how assertive you are during your interview.
Body language and facial clues
Finally, your body language alone will tell an interviewer a great deal about your fitness for the task of juror. If your hands are clasped tightly in your lap during the question and answer session and your posture is stiff and your facial expression blank or stony, an attorney could quickly get the idea that you are less than receptive. If you project a closed or suspicious mind, an attorney may not consider you a suitable candidate to sit on a jury.
You do not have many obligations as an American citizen, but one of them is to take time away from your normal responsibilities to serve on a jury when called upon to do so. Responding in a positive manner is a way of contributing to your community as well as your country. If you are interested in being one of those chosen for the task, keep in mind the many things that both prosecuting and defense attorneys look for in good candidates when you report for your preliminary interview.