Voir Dire Practices

Legal Compliance Resource
January 14, 2013 — 1,127 views  

Voir dire is the process where the panel of jury is questioned by attorneys. Jury selection is a process that is not completely free from errors. There may be various problems arising when selecting a jury. It is the duty of the defense counsel to ensure that these issues are recorded. Following are some of the common areas in jury selection where issues may arise.  

The Pool of Jury

Fair cross-section is essential in the jury selection process. The community is expected to draw petit juries from “fair cross-sections”. To violate the requirement of fair cross-sections, defendants should display three things. Firstly, the group that is allegedly unprecedented or excluded is a characteristically unique group (women and racial minorities, for instance). Secondly, the group is not reasonable or fair in representing the jury, and thirdly, the group under represent the community because of systematic exclusion in the process of jury selection.    

Equal Protection

The clause of equal protection ensures that the state and any party acting on behalf of it will not discriminate against any particular group during the jury selection process. If the clause is violated, the defendant may display examples of prima facie situations where discrimination is evident through the group’s statistical under-representation. Jury and juror selection is no longer limited to biased opinions, thanks to the clause of equal protection.

Selection Requirements

Selection of juries is done on a constitutional and statutory basis. Jurors must be randomly selected from the pool in order to carry out questioning requirements. Common errors usually arise when the presiding judge calls jurors in an organized manner. State laws emphasize on the importance of calling jurors randomly without letting them know the order in which they will be called. A selection process will not be constitutional if the judge and assisting clerk decide to give preference to one party over the others.   

Checking Statutory Qualification

Prospective jurors require the following set of qualifications if they are to serve in a court of law:

  • Must be a citizen of a particular state. 
  • Must be residing in the country.
  • Has not held the post of juror in the past two years.
  • Is over eighteen years of age.
  • Is mentally and physically competent.
  • Is able to understand and communicate in English.
  • Has not been a felon and convicted for the same.

It is absolutely vital to conduct a thorough background check on the prospective jurors to ensure that the selection process is effectively completed.

Voir Dire Entitlement

Unqualified jurors can be identified by the defendant through the process of voir dire. Defendants who claim to be under trial for discriminative reasons may be entitled to voir dire the panel of jury or the juror about the particular form of discrimination. The court will consider the defendant’s plea and make an appropriate decision based on all the information gathered.

Several problems may arise during the process of jury selection. Thus, attorneys and court officials must be careful when choosing jurors or panels of jury.  

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