What Does Voir Dire Mean?

In Voir Dire, which is pronounced to sound like the phrase choir deer, potential members of the jury are questioned by the lawyers to find the ones with the least amount of biases. It’s the examination of the background of a witness or jury member to find one suitable to serve as a member of the jury.

Random Selection Process

As many people know, the jury selection process begins with a summons in the mail. It’s a random selection process that picks names from a list of potential jurors in the county that might be compiled from registered voters, people with a license or those receiving unemployment. The notice will inform the potential juror the time and date he or she is expected to be at the courthouse. Unless there is a legitimate reason that the person can’t be there, the person is required to show up at the courthouse.

Questioning the Potential Jurors

Once the person is at the courthouse, the second stage of the process begins. The court as well as the attorneys will narrow down the potential jurors to the twelve people who will become the jury pool.

The judge will begin the process by asking questions of the jurors to see if they are qualified to serve on the jury. This is the time when jurors will inform the judge if they believe they can’t serve. They might have a vital surgical procedure coming soon, or be the sole caretaker of an elderly relative. For the most part, there are no really great excuses for leaving or being excused from duty.

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Once the judge has excused those deemed unsuitable, the lawyers can begin their questioning. They’ll narrow in on their background, bias and opinions of the case. Experiences, judgements and preconceived notions of the case might be brought to light in the selection process. Each lawyer wants a juror who will be sympathetic to their side of the case. The jury members can never be removed due to race or sex.

Challenges for Cause

When it comes to bias, jurors can be dismissed if they can’t put aside their personal feelings to be impartial. An actual bias could be brought to light that would cause a juror to be dismissed. That’s often when a person states they could not be impartial due to circumstances like religious or personal beliefs.

When a person has an implied bias, the lawyer believes that due to their personality or background that they couldn’t be impartial. For example, mothers might be dismissed from a case that involves injuries to a child since she might not be able to look past the injured child.

Peremptory Challenges

There are times when a lawyer wants to dismiss a juror even when they’re qualified to serve. This is used for potential jury members who might be more sympathetic to the other side. Often, lawyers can get a feeling for who will be sympathetic based on their answers or even body language. Each lawyer only gets a certain number of peremptory challenges for the entire process, so they must be used carefully.

Once all the challenges are complete and the number of jurors is sufficient, the Voir Dire process is over. The next part of the process can begin, which is often when the lawyers will begin presenting their case to the jurors.