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A juror questionnaire, also referred to as a jury questionnaire, is a series of questions in written form asked of potential jurors during the jury selection process. The questionnaire must be filled out by potential jurors for specific court cases and in some jurisdictions. Its purpose is to help select fair and impartial jurors. Issues that might possibility rule out a potential juror include deeply held biases, past crime-related experiences, physical or mental health issues, or preconceived opinions about the specific trial and/or the nature of the crime. Some critics regard the use of the juror questionnaire as intrusive, unnecessary, and potentially responsible for the decreased public response to juror summonses.
Filling out a juror questionnaire is a requirement in specific cases and jurisdictions for the purpose of identifying fair and reliable jurors. The exact questions vary across questionnaires, but most include inquiries about age, gender, ethnicity, marital status, county of residence, education level, and employment status. Other questions may be related to reading habits and whether the potential juror has watched crime stories or crime-related news. Some questionnaires describe the accused and the nature of the crime, and also ask if the juror knows the accused or the victims of the crime. Many questionnaires will ask the respondent if he considers himself objective and free of bias in regard to the specific case.
Legal affiliations and personal histories related to the legal system and/or illegal activity also may be questioned in a juror questionnaire. Questions such as whether a person has been sued or if a friend or relative has been charged with a specific crime may also be asked. Prior experience as a victim of a crime or strong negative opinions about the judicial system may be examined. Potential jurors may also be questioned about their personal experiences with jury duty service and specific reactions to a prior trial. All questions are intended to screen out people who might allow their biases or bad experiences to interfere with rendering a fair decision.
Some critics of juror questionnaires argue that the method is overused, counterproductive, and intrusive. Questions about whether a person has ever owned a gun or committed a crime, for example, are thought to be reasons for juror questionnaire non-response, particularly in jurisdictions where the answers are to be returned via mail. Recommendations for improving the questionnaire process include limiting them to special cases and taking extra measures to ensure protection of sensitive and personal information about potential jurors.
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