Jury Selection on Trial

Summary

Justice in America not only requires the work of each branch of government, it also requires the voices of citizens who serve on juries in both civil and criminal trials. If the constitutional guarantee of a fair trial is to be realized, the process used for selecting jurors must also be fair.

Before Edmonson v. Leesville Concrete Co. (1991), the constitutional principle of equal protection under the law had been applied to federal jury selection practices in criminal trials but not in civil trials. With Edmonson, the Court applied the same principle to civil jury trials when it ruled that the use of race-based peremptory challenges during jury selection violates the Constitution.

Edmonson v. Leesville is a story about the relentless pursuit of justice under law by one ordinary citizen and his attorney. Because of their persistence, all citizens who report for jury service are protected against discriminatory practices during the selection process.

In this lesson, students learn about the process used for jury selection and how the role and responsibilities of government in civil and criminal jury trials are viewed by the Supreme Court. They also reflect on the democratic values, principles, and dispositions of character working behind the scenes.

The estimated time for the lesson plan is four class periods.

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