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Jury Selection in Maryland Federal Criminal Trials

Cases can have a bench trial or a jury trial in federal court. Often, it is at the election of the defendant as to which forum they prefer. With that said, it is important for the defendant to talk to an attorney to know whether a bench trial or jury trial is more appropriate for their offense. The answer usually depends on a number of factors including the kind of evidence and the kind of legal issues that become apparent to your attorney during the course of discovery. This makes it crucial to have an experienced federal criminal attorney on your side to help make this decision and prepare you as much as possible. Speak with a capable attorney that could answer any questions you may have about jury selection in Maryland federal criminal trials.

Where Do the Members of a Jury Pool Come From?

During jury selection in Maryland federal criminal trials, the members of the jury pool are randomly selected from the community in the local jurisdiction. In Maryland, the courts are organized by county, so for a case in Prince George’s County, a juror must be resident of Prince George’s County.  The jury pool is taken from the voter rolls, the Maryland Vehicle Administration, or the Department of Motor Vehicles.  In Maryland courts, the jury pool is developed from eligible jurors who live in the county in federal district court, the jury pool is pulled from all eligible jurors in district or region, which will tend to include a larger area and a larger population.

Usually, Greenbelt deals with the southern half of the state including Prince George’s County, Howard County, Montgomery County, Frederick County, and Washington County. Residents of those counties receive jury duty calls for the Greenbelt courthouse. The rest of the state has jury duty at the Baltimore courthouse in the federal courts.

How Jury Pools Differ in Different States

The make-up of a jury in Florida might be different than a jury in Massachusetts. In Nebraska, a jury pool from one small county is different from a jury pool drawn from the entire district for the federal district court. Virginia has two federal districts, the Eastern District and the Western District. There are divisions within those, but it is a much broader base for a jury pool than a state court which is confined to a county. Generally speaking, state court jury pools are smaller and more homogeneous relative to the jury pool for a federal court.

How This Compares to State Trials

The federal jury pool is different from a state jury pool because state juries are chosen from the county where the particular state charges are brought. If a person is charged with a crime in Montgomery County, Maryland, the prospective jurors are Montgomery County jurors. Similarly, if the person is charged with the crime in Prince George’s County, the jurors are from Prince George’s County. Federal cases are not county specific, so the jurors can be from a much wider pool. For example, Greenbelt technically falls in Prince George’s County, but the jury pool does not necessarily all need to come from there.

Juries are supposed to be juries of a person’s peers, which includes factors like race, gender, and age. It can also apply to residency. Usually, jurors in the federal system deal with crimes from a number of different counties, not just from Prince George’s County or Baltimore where those federal courts are located. For that reason, when it comes to jury selection in Maryland federal criminal trials, the jurors come from a much wider pool of the entire state of Maryland as opposed to just from the counties where those courthouses are located.

Impact of  Jury Pool Makeup on the Case

The makeup of the jury pool can have a tremendous impact on the case, as it is the jurors who, in most cases, will be deciding the verdict.  Different jury pools can mean different demographics with different notions about the subject matter of the case. As with any jury trial, the jurors determine the verdict. Each side of the case shapes their argument for the jury.

In a federal system, however, people who are brought in from another county may not have any ties to that area, and may not have any experience in or familiarity with that area. The defense may need to explain the information or give more detail about the location of a particular incident to the jury because they may not be familiar with those locations. If an individual wants to know more about jury selection in Maryland federal criminal trials, they should consult a knowledgeable federal defense attorney that could answer their questions.

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