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South Carolina
JUDICIAL DEPARTMENT
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Juror Information

Selection of the Jury

The first step in the actual trial of a jury case is the selection of the number of jurors from the jury panel required to try the case--sometimes six, but most often twelve. At the beginning of this process, there are usually fifty to sixty prospective jurors present in the courtroom.

The juror selection process in any particular case usually begins with a brief explanation by the judge of the general nature of the case and the names of the parties and their attorneys. The judge then begins the procedure by the questioning of the jurors in order to determine their ability to serve as a juror. Some questions may be directed to all the jurors at once, while others may be directed to individual jurors. The judge determines the types of questions that are asked with suggestions from the attorneys representing the parties. These questions may inquire as to whether a juror has any knowledge of the case. The questioning process, called the voir dire, is designed to permit the attorneys to become acquainted with the prospective jurors and to determine whether a juror can serve fairly and impartially in the case.

If during the questioning, a prospective juror indicates by his answer that he or she is not legally qualified to act as a juror (for instance, if the juror were related to or employed by one of the parties), that juror may be excused "for cause." This excuse, "for cause", may be decided on the judge's initiative or upon motion of one of the parties' attorneys, but there is no limit to the number of jurors who may be excused for cause. After voir dire has been concluded and there are no further challenges for cause by either attorney, the attorneys may finally choose their jury by exercising a certain number of peremptory challenges. This means that each attorney may excuse a certain number of jurors without having to show a reason. A juror who is challenged and thereby excused from service should not be offended, as each attorney has a different idea as to the type of juror that would be most beneficial to the trial of the case.

The manner in which the peremptory challenge period is conducted varies between civil and criminal cases. In civil cases, if a computer is not used for the drawing of jurors, a responsible and impartial person will draw from the jury panel box a total of twenty names. The clerk writes these down, and a copy is given to the attorneys for both sides. The attorneys then strike jurors by number until the plaintiff and the defendant have each struck four names. The remaining twelve names make up the jury. The clerk calls out the names and these people take their seats in the jury box. The judge appoints one of the jurors to act as foreman. Jurors selected to serve on a jury must leave all cell phones, pagers, or other communication devices, including palm pilots, with the clerk of court, bailiff, or other individual identified by the presiding judge.

In criminal cases, if a computer is not used for the drawing of jurors, a responsible and impartial person draws a name and hands it to the clerk. The clerk calls out the name of the juror. This juror comes forward and stands in front of the jury box. The clerk says, "What sayeth the State?" The Solicitor, representing the State, will say either (1) "Excuse the juror," in which event the juror takes his or her seat back in the courtroom; or (2) "Present the juror," or "Swear the juror." The clerk will then ask, "What sayeth the defendant?" The defendant's attorney may say (1) "Excuse the juror," in which event the juror takes his or her seat back in the courtroom; or (2) "Swear the juror," in which event the juror takes a seat in the jury box as directed by the clerk.

After both sides have completed their challenges and the jury box has been filled with the required number of jurors, the process of selection is concluded and the jury is then administered the oath by the court. The oath you will take as a juror is as follows:

In Criminal Cases (General Sessions)

"Mr. Foreman or Madam Foreman, Ladies and Gentlemen of the Jury. Please stand and raise your right hand to be sworn:

You shall well and truly try, and true deliverance make, between the State of South Carolina, and the defendant at bar, whom you shall have in charge, and a true verdict give, according to the law and evidence. SO HELP YOU GOD."

In Civil Cases (Common Pleas)

"Mr. Foreman or Madam Foreman, Ladies and Gentlemen of the Jury. Please stand and raise your right hand to be sworn:

You shall well and truly try the issues joined in this case and a true verdict give according to the law and evidence. SO HELP YOU GOD."