Jury selection is the procedure whereby persons from the community are called to court, questioned by the litigants as to their qualifications to serve as a juror and then either selected to or rejected to serve as a juror. A person who is at least eighteen years of age, a United States citizen, a resident of New Mexico residing in the county for which a jury may be convened is eligible and may be summoned for service as a juror by the courts. Whereas, a person is incapable of rendering jury service if h/she:
- has physical or mental illness or infirmity;
- has undue or extreme physical or financial hardship;
- is a person who was convicted of a felony. However, if such person who meets all other requirements for eligibility may be summoned for jury service if the person has successfully completed all conditions of the sentence imposed for the felony, including conditions for probation or parole.[i]
The following persons shall be exempted from serving as a juror:
- A person who has served as a member of a jury panel in either state or federal courts within the preceding thirty-six months
- A person who is seventy-five years of age or older, who files an affidavit requesting an exemption from jury service
A person may be excused from jury service at the discretion of the judge or the judge’s designee, with or without the person’s personal attendance upon the court, if:
- jury service would cause undue or extreme physical or financial hardship to the prospective juror or to a person under the prospective juror’s care or supervision;
- the person has an emergency that renders the person unable to perform jury service; or
- the person presents other satisfactory evidence to the judge or the judge’s designee.
A person requesting an exemption or an excuse from jury service shall take all necessary action to obtain a ruling on the request no later than the date on which the person is scheduled to appear for jury duty.[ii]
The court shall, by order, designate the number of potential jurors to be selected and the date on which the jurors are to report for empanelling. Within fifteen days after receipt of a copy of the order, the administrative office of the courts shall provide the random jury list to the court. The department of information technology shall transfer the master jury database to a court that has compatible equipment to accept such a transfer. The court accepting the master jury database shall transfer the information to a programmed computer used for the random selection of petit or grand jurors.[iii]
The court shall empanel jurors in a random manner. Jurors who appear for service shall be questioned under oath as to their eligibility for jury service by the judge or the judge’s designee. Claims of exemption, the judge or the judge’s designee shall rule upon requests for excuse from service or postponement of service.
Later, the judge or the judge’s designee shall submit questionnaires to prospective jurors to:
- obtain any information that will aid the court in ruling on requests for exemption or excuse from service or postponement of service;
- aid the court and the parties in voir dire examination of jurors or in determining a juror’s qualifications to serve on a particular petit jury panel, trial jury or grand jury; or
- aid in the determination of challenges for cause and peremptory challenges.
The judge or the judge’s designee shall certify a numbered list of the jury panel members’ names when qualified. The certified list of jurors and the questionnaires obtained from jurors shall be made available for inspection and copying by a party to a pending proceeding or their attorney or to any person having good cause for access to the list and the questionnaires.[iv]
The district court of each county shall maintain a list of the names of the jurors duly empanelled and present for the trial of a case. The judge shall cause the names to be randomly selected until sufficient names have been drawn to provide the number of jurors required for the trial. The name and number of each juror shall be announced. Twelve or six jurors shall compose a petit jury in the district courts for the trial of civil causes. Twelve jurors shall compose a petit jury in criminal and children’s court cases. Magistrate and metropolitan jury court selection shall be conducted in accordance with Supreme Court rules.[v]
The court shall permit the parties to a case to express in the record of trial any challenge to a juror for good cause. The court shall rule upon the challenge and may excuse any juror for good cause. Challenges for good cause and peremptory challenges shall be made outside the hearing of the jury. The party making a challenge shall not be announced or disclosed to the jury panel, but each challenge shall be recorded by the clerk and placed in the case file.
In civil cases, each party may challenge five jurors peremptorily. When there are two or more parties defendant or parties plaintiff, they shall exercise their peremptory challenges jointly, and if all cannot agree on a challenge desired by one party on a side, then the challenge is forfeited. However, if the relief sought by or against the parties on the same side of a civil case differs, or if their interests are diverse, or if cross-claims are to be tried, the court shall allow each party on that side of the suit five peremptory challenges.[vi]
[i] N.M. Stat. Ann. § 38-5-1
[ii] N.M. Stat. Ann. § 38-5-2[ii]
[iii] N.M. Stat. Ann. § 38-5-3
[iv] N.M. Stat. Ann. § 38-5-11
[v] N.M. Stat. Ann. § 38-5-13
[vi]N.M. Stat. Ann. § 38-5-14