Seven tips for jury selection in Indian Country

Jury selection in Indian Country is often a challenge because so many tribal members know each other and are related to each other, putting objectivity at risk.

Judges Patricia Lenzi (Saint Regis Mohawk), Lawrence King (Colorado River Indian Tribes-CRIT), Anna Kimber (CRIT), Brian Utsey (CRIT) and Ida Wilbur (Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community) offer these tips:

  1. Be prepared to accept family members (of victims/offenders/witnesses/court staff) who say they can be fair.
  2. Be prepared to address conflicts of interest with you, your staff or witnesses, offenders and jurors in the jury pool. Know what really IS a conflict and what is not but some might perceive as so.
  3. Voir dire individual members of the jury pool who state there are reasons they should be excluded from the jury by using a bench conference (that is on the record) or a closed hearing. This helps avoid other potential jurors using the same excuse to get out of jury duty.
  4. Start with an overly large pool of potential jurors. One-hundred or more may be needed to have 50 show up, of which only 20 may qualify, to get a six-person jury with two alternates.
  5. See if potential jurors have transportation issues and what resources the court has to get them there.
  6. Ensure you pay jurors for their service if required in the code. Also, provide food for them for breakfast, breaks, lunch, etc.
  7. Consider charging those who fail to show for jury duty with contempt, which can be purged by showing up at jury duty the next time. Set the contempt hearings for the morning of jury selection.
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