Jury selection refers to a procedure employed to choose people from among the community using a reasonably random method to serve on a trial jury.
In Oklahoma, all citizens over eighteen years of age and who holds a driving license/identification license will be liable to serve as jurors[i].
The trial judge can direct in his/her discretion that a jury in a civil case be selected in the following manner:
If the case is triable to a twelve man jury, eighteen prospective jurors will be called and examined on voir dire. When eighteen such prospective jurors have been passed for cause, each side of the lawsuit will exercise its peremptory challenges out of the hearing of the jury by alternately striking three names from the list. The remaining twelve persons will be sworn to try the case. Likewise, if the case is triable to a six man jury, twelve prospective jurors will be called[ii]. The procedures are the same and after striking down three names from the list, six persons are selected to try the case.
The jury will be sworn to try the matters submitted before them and to give a true verdict according to the law and the evidence[iii]. The trial will proceed in the following order, unless the court for special reasons otherwise directs:
- The party on whom the burden of the issues lies can briefly state his/her case, and the evidence by which s/he expects to sustain it.
- The adverse party can then briefly state his/her defense, and the evidence he expects to offer in support of it.
- The party on whom the burden of the issues rests must first produce his evidence. Then the adverse party may interpose and file a demurrer upon the ground that no cause of action or defense is proved. If the court sustains the demurrer, such judgment shall be rendered for the party demurring and if the demurrer is overruled, the adverse party will then produce his/her evidence.
- The parties will then be confined to rebutting evidence
- When the evidence is concluded and either party desires special instructions to be given to the jury, such instructions shall be reduced to writing and delivered to the court. The court will give general instructions to the jury upon that request.
- When either party asks special instructions to be given to the jury, the court will either give such instructions or positively refuse to do so; or give the instructions with modification.
- After the instructions have been given to the jury the cause may be argued.
If there is more than one defendant in the case, and the trial judge determines that there is a serious conflict of interest between them, s/he may, in his/her discretion, allow each defendant to strike three names from the list of jurors. In such case s/he shall appropriately increase the number of jurors initially called and seated in the box for voir dire examination.
However, the jury can be discharged by the court if the juror is sick, or other accident or calamity requiring their discharge, or by consent of both parties, or if the court feels that there is no probability of their agreeing[iv]. If the jury are permitted to separate, either during the trial or after the case is submitted to them, they will be admonished by the court that it is their duty not to converse with, or suffer themselves to be addressed by, any other person, on any subject of the trial, and that it is their duty not to form or express an opinion until the case is finally submitted to them.
The trial by jury can be waived by the parties in the following manner[v]:
- By the consent of the party appearing, when the other party fails to appear at the trial by himself;
- By written consent, in person or by attorney, filed with the clerk attorney;
- By oral consent, in open court, entered on the journal.
[i] 38 Okl. St. § 18
[ii] 12 Okl. St. § 575.1
[iii] 12 Okl. St. § 576
[iv] 12 Okl. St. § 583
[v] 12 Okl. St. § 591