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.
In Virgin Islands, any citizen of the U.S., who has attained the age of 18 years and has resided within the territory for six months or more, is competent to serve as a juror unless:
- S/he has been convicted in a state, territorial or federal court of record of a crime punishable by imprisonment for more than one year and his civil rights have not been restored by pardon or amnesty;
- S/he is unable to read, write, speak and understand the English language;
- S/he is incapable by reason of mental or physical infirmities to render efficient jury service[i].
Following persons are exempted from jury service:
- Members in active service of the armed forces of the U.S.;
- Members of the fire and police departments of the territory;
- Attorneys at law, ministers of the gospel or priests of any religious denomination, and practicing physicians and dentists;
- Public officers in the legislative, executive or judicial branches of the Government of the United States or the government of the Virgin Islands who are actively engaged in the performance of official duties;
- Persons who have served as jurors within the preceding year[ii].
The judge of the district court should appoint four jury commissioners for each judicial division of the territory. They must be residents of the division of good standing and who, with the clerk of the district court or his/her deputy must constitute the jury commission of the judicial division[iii]. The names of jurors must be publicly drawn by the jury commission from a jury box containing the names of not less than 100 qualified persons at the time of each drawing. The jury commissioners and the clerk, or his/her deputy, must alternately select and place in the jury box the names of qualified persons of intelligence, sobriety and integrity[iv].
The trial jury in civil actions consists of twelve persons, unless the parties consent to a lesser number[v]. The clerk issues summons directing each person in the panel of jurors to attend the court at the time and place designated and must deliver them to the marshal for service[vi]. As soon as the trial jury is selected, an oath or affirmation is administered to the jurors to the effect that they will well and truly try the matter in issue and give a true verdict according to the law and evidence[vii].
In civil cases each party is entitled to three peremptory challenges. Several defendants or plaintiffs are considered as a single party for the purpose of making challenges. If there is more than one defendant the court may allow the defendants additional peremptory challenges and permit them to be exercised separately or jointly[viii].
[i] 4 V.I.C. § 471
[ii] 4 V.I.C. § 472
[iii] 4 V.I.C. § 474
[iv] 4 V.I.C. § 476
[v] 5 V.I.C. § 322
[vi] 4 V.I.C. § 478
[vii] 5 V.I.C. § 324
[viii] 5 V.I.C. § 323