In order for any criminal trial begins, a jury must be selected. But how a jury is chosen why certain prospective jurors are excluded is not limitless. Generally, when jurors are selected from a pool (called the “venire”) they can be excluded “for cause” or because either the defendant’s attorney or the prosecutor exercised a “peremptory challenge.” A peremptory challenge is where one party excuses a prospective juror from being seated on the jury. The use of peremptory challenges, however, is not without its limits.
The Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment to the United States Constitution and Article 12 of the Massachusetts Declaration of Rights place limitations on the use of peremptory challenges. Generally, a party cannot exercise a peremptory challenge of a prospective juror if the reason is based by virtue of their membership in or their affiliation with particular defined groupings in the community, such as race, sex or religion.
When a party challenges the opponents use of a peremptory challenge, the judge must evaluate the objection based on a 3-step process: