In one of the most publicized criminal case in recent history, George Zimmerman who is being tried for murder in the death of Trayvon Martin has drawn an all-female jury. As a Massachusetts criminal defense attorney, the jury selection process is a very important step in setting up a criminal defense. Getting jurors who are biased or against the defendant in some way can be detrimental to a case. Getting an all-female jury raises some interesting questions as to whether or not this can have an effect on the outcome of the case.
Having an all women jury or even one female juror for that matter was not always an option. It was not until 1975 and the decision in the Supreme Court case of Taylor v. Louisiana that stated women had to be involved in the jury process in order for it to be considered a jury of peers as required by the Constitution. Before that, women were not required to be a part of the jury process and it was only optional that women served. Since women have become part of juries, it can finally be considered that a defendant is on trial by a jury of his or her peers.
It still remains to be seen if this will affect the trial in any way either in favor for the defense of the prosecution. Many have argued that it would be impossible for a man to get a fair trial with an all women jury and this will be a true to see if it can be done.
Jury selection can certainly be used as a strategy for an attorney in a criminal case. Through the questions during voir dire, each attorney will try to get the potential jurors they feel will most likely be on their side in the case. If the all women jury came about from one of the jurors preferring women, this may be unconstitutional. Lawyers are allowed a certain number of peremptory challenges where they can take a juror off the jury for any reason they want. However, the Supreme Court has ruled that it is unconstitutional for a lawyer to use one of these challenges for the purpose of taking off a certain gender. If any peremptory challenges in this case were used on solely on the basis of gender to get an all women jury, this would be considered unconstitutional.
Even had the all women jury been selected as some sort of strategy, it is unlikely that alone would have an effect on the trial. Studies have shown that gender alone has little effect on the outcome of a case. Instead, it is a mixture of gender, age, race, location and life experiences that determine how a juror may vote. It is more likely that the lawyers determined who they wanted as jurors with a combination of these factors rather than gender alone. In such a high profile and important case, it is hard to imagine attorneys being so close minded as to waste one of the most strategic moves they have in selecting jurors based only on gender. It is a much more beneficial process to take into consideration multiple factors when selecting jurors. The case is well underway now and with a recent denial to dismiss the case, the jury will have a chance to decide the fate of the defendant.