Choosing a Jury Pool for a Maryland Federal Criminal Trial
Choosing a jury is a crucial part of any jury trial. While the process is similar to that of a state trial, there are specific elements of choosing a jury pool which are unique to Maryland federal criminal trials. For this reason, this process should be addressed by an experienced federal criminal attorney.
Unique Aspects of a Federal Jury Pools
The jury pool in federal cases is no different than in other Maryland cases except that the jury pool in a federal case is called from an entire jurisdiction as opposed to just from one county.
For example, when there is a state case in Montgomery County, the jurors are Montgomery County residents. If there is a case in Prince George’s County, the jurors are Prince George’s County residents.
With a case in federal court in Greenbelt, the jury pool includes any of the neighboring counties, even though Greenbelt is in Prince George’s County. Similarly, for a case at the Baltimore federal court, the jury pool could be picked from any number of neighboring counties not just from the Baltimore area.
Impact This Can Have on a Criminal Case
Having a jury pool drawn from an entire jurisdiction has an effect on the case in very different ways than having a jury come from just a specific county. Usually, jurors called to Greenbelt who are not Prince George’s County residents do not have a real familiarity with the area. They do not know the roads, the various parks, or the location where a crime might have taken place.
There is also a different culture in each county and different attitudes towards certain things. For example, there is a general mistrust of the police for residents of Baltimore City as well as for certain parts of Prince George’s County. Montgomery County residents are far more trusting of police as are residents of Howard County. That is information that any criminal defense attorney who practiced in a particular region knows, understands, and is able to apply when assisting his or her clients in selecting the jury most beneficial to the case.
Process of Choosing a Jury
The process for choosing a jury pool in the federal system is different than in the state system. Each case in the federal system gets a certain number of strikes that the defense and the prosecution can exercise when selecting a jury. They can eliminate certain jurors for no reason at all. A decision is entirely between the defense attorney and his client or the prosecutors and their colleagues. There are also strikes that are for-cause. These strikes are made based on a reasoning given to the judge about why a juror might not be able to be fair and impartial.
The manner in which a jury is selected in the state system is different than the way a jury is selected in a federal system. In the state system, the reasoning for why a juror is stricken or not stricken is more public and called out in the court room. In the federal system, there are more discreet conversations with the judge about why certain jurors are being stricken or not stricken and the reasoning behind those strikes.
People chosen for a federal criminal trial jury pool are selected from the entire state. In Maryland, the state is divided in half because there are two different federal courts in Maryland. The federal courts are located in Greenbelt, Maryland which is in Prince George’s County and is considered the Southern District. The other federal court is located in Baltimore City and is considered the Northern District. The jurors for each of those respective courthouses are selected from a pool from their half of the state.
Jurors are never changed out once a jury is selected; that is the jury for the entire case. There are always a number of alternate jurors selected in case a juror can no longer serve because of an emergency or other commitment during the course of the trial. An alternate takes the place of that juror during the course of the trial. If the judge has seated all the alternates because sitting jurors could no longer serve, and an alternate is no longer available because there are no additional alternates to put in that juror’s place, a mistrial is declared and the case starts again.