How long should it take to pick a jury in a murder case?

I have previously written about the English method (frequently seen in the federal courts) and the American method (frequently seen in the state courts) for jury selection.  With that in mind, I see that a jury of six women has been picked in the State of Florida’s prosecution of George Zimmerman for the shooting death of Trayvon Martin.  They started with a pool of 40 people.  Jury selection took two weeks.

The time it took to select a jury in the Florida case illustrates the differences in how judges from different venues view jury selection.  While I have absolutely no criticism of the Florida judge, and while I realize that the national publicity regarding the Florida incident makes that case unique, I thought it might be useful to look at how long it took to select a jury in a roughly comparable case here in Federal court.

Let’s take, for example, United States v. Hoover,   After a nine-day trial, Jeffrey Hoover was convicted, and sentenced to life in prison, on two counts of using a firearm in connection with a drug trafficking offense in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 924(c)(1), resulting in the first degree murders of Harold Fowler and Duane Johnson.  Hoover was white and the victims were men of color (Black or Native American).  Hoover, using two teenage kids to help him, executed Fowler and Johnson, with a rifle at close range, after they stiffed him on a $850 marijuana deal.  He shot one of them in the genitals.

The prosecutors and defense counsel involved in the Hoover case were the best in the business.  One of the defense lawyers was appointed precisely because of his great skill and vast experience dealing with murder cases.  He talked Main Justice out of seeking the death penalty.  The nearly two-week trial saw 30 government witnesses and five defense witnesses.

In the Zimmerman case, it took two weeks to select a six person jury from a pool of 40.  In the Hoover case it took two hours to select a 12 person jury plus an alternate out of a pool of 40.  Perhaps you can see now why I prefer the English method of jury selection–short and sweet even in big cases.


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