What is voir dire in law? Voir dire can be a confusing process for a defendant … even attorneys. The twelve jurors selected will decide the fate of the defendant. Each side must pick the best jurors for their respective sides. This article goes into detail about what venire is.
In the United States legal system, voir dire is a term used to describe the questioning of prospective jurors during jury selection. The term comes from French, which literally means “to speak the truth.” The purpose of venire process is to determine whether potential jurors are biased or prejudiced against either party, cannot serve as a juror, and/or are not suitable for the case at hand.
What Is Voir Dire In Law?
Voir dire is a critical part of jury selection in a criminal trial. … although voir dire is also used in civil trials. It allows lawyers to uncover information about potential jurors by asking a lot of questions. The judge and attorneys can ask questions for the entire potential panel, or they can ask questions to each individual. These questions help ensure that the jurors are unbiased.
The process of voir dire normally begins with the judge asking questions. The attorneys then get to ask questions. Some are “canned” questions, and some are more specific to the charges or to the case. It ends when each of the parties have used up all their peremptory challenges.
A lawyer may ask any question he or she wants, but not all questions will be allowed. For example, some questions are too broad, while others are irrelevant or improper. If a question is deemed inappropriate, it can be objected to by opposing counsel.
The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure allow for the use of written questions as well as oral ones. Written questions may be sent in prior to the court day.
Written questions are often easier to administer than oral ones because they do not require the court reporter to transcribe them. However, if an attorney asks a question orally, the court reporter must record it. This makes it possible for attorneys to review the transcript later on.
Also, the judge and attorneys do not go into voir dire blind. Even though they do not know identifying information (such as age or name) before questioning the potential jurors, most proceedings had an initial set of written questions that each juror was required to fill out before even randomly chosen to be on the panel.
The judge and attorneys use this initial information to help guide the questions asked during the voir dire process. And also, who to strike out.
A lawyer’s ability to conduct effective voir dire depends on his or her experience and skill. Some lawyers are better at conducting voir dire than others.
What Is The Purpose of Voir Dire?
The Sixth Amendment guarantees certain right for criminal defendants, including the right to an impartial jury of his or her peers. A lot of people misinterpret what the word “peers” means. “Peer” means “equal,” and everyone is equal under the law.
The process of voir dire is to determine who those peers will be. The criminal defendant has the right to an impartial jury, so if any potential juror has an issue, he or she is not impartial. That person would be biased. Voir dire is like whittling away the juror unsuitable to serve.
A Little Bit of History on Voir Dire
In America, voir dire has been around since colonial times. Early Americans relied heavily on trial by jury. Trials were conducted in front of a group of people who served as judges. These people had no formal training in law and could not issue verdicts based on evidence presented during trials. Instead, they determined whether the accused was guilty or innocent based on their personal observations of witnesses and the defendant.
During the late 1700s, American courts began allowing lawyers to participate in trials. Lawyers questioned witnesses and helped present arguments to the jury. They also asked questions of the jurors themselves. By doing so, these lawyers gave the jury members more information about the case and allowed them to make more informed decisions.
During the 1800s, voir dire became even more common. Jurors began being selected through a random drawing instead of having to appear before a judge. As a result, lawyers gained greater access to potential jurors.
Today, voir dire continues to play an important role in our judicial system. It allows lawyers to learn about prospective jurors and help them decide which ones should be removed from the panel.
What is a Preemptory Strike or a Preemptory Challenge?
The word preempt means to go first. In the context of a trial, it means to strike a juror without giving any reason.
What is the Purpose of a Preemptory Strike?
The purpose of a preemptory challenge is to remove someone from the jury pool. Each side have a limited number of peremptory challenges (in PA, each side has six), which enable them to dismiss a juror without giving a reason. Either side can remove the juror for any reason except on the basis of gender or race (among other reasons).
Parties generally do not have to justify the use of peremptory challenges. Peremptory challenges are presumed to be exercised in a nondiscrimination manner, but if counsel suspects that a challenge is being used improperly then he or she may raise an objection and initiate an inquiry. An appeal can also happen if one side objects, and the judge overrules that objection.
Maureen’s Legal Bottom Line
The process of voir dire is not perfect. For example, in a capital punishment case (the death penalty), potential jurors must uphold the sentencing of sending a man or woman to death. Many people have an issue with that kind of responsibility, which leaves the people who do not have an issue on the jury.
The issue with that is there is a correlation of those jurors to find a defendant guilty just because that person is a defendant. Also, it is hard to prove racial or gender peremptory striking.
Even though our voir dire process is not foolproof, it is the best system we have to ensure an impartial panel of a defendant’s peers.