Voir Dire: A French Term Meaning "To speak the Truth."
Deselecting a jury
" Never forget, almost every case has been won or lost when the jury is sworn."
~ Clarence Darrow 1936
John Adams described it as "the heart and lungs of liberty." Our legal process entrusts the most difficult disputes to a group of people who are strangers to one another and strangers to the parties to the lawsuit. We submit crucial questions involving property, liberty and life itself to a random slice of the community's population. We call that group a "jury."
What is Jury Selection?Jury selection is the process whereby lawyers exercise their prejudices to prevent jurors from exercising theirs.
It should really be called "Jury Deselection" as the primary function for the attorneys on both sides is to identify the ones who are leaning against their side and through a series of exercising peremptory or cause strikes, remove them from the jury.
Through voir dire (jury selection), an attorney can challenge a prospective juror "for cause" if that person says or otherwise expresses a bias against the defendant or the judicial process.
A "for cause" strike is exercised when a juror is disqualified as a matter of law. Any person who is too young, not a citizen, is a felon, is insane, or fits a small number of other disqualifying points, is disqualified as a matter of law and cannot serve. Primary among these would be any juror who is so biased against one party or the other that they could not put that bias aside and judge the case on the merits.
Each side also has a limited number of "peremptory" challenges for which no reason to strike is required, with the exception of striking a potential juror solely because of their race. The peremptory challenge is the primary tool for jury selection that lawyers have. Generally, we do not "select" jurors -- we de-select them. The first twelve people in the box will be the jury unless the Prosecution or the Defendant strikes one - either through a peremptory challenge or "for cause." Those individuals who are accepted by both sides are impaneled and sworn in as the jury. Jury selection in a like a game of chess whereby each side hopes to outwit the other before running out of play pieces.
Lawyers must master the skills of knowing how to read a jury. I am in the group of attorneys that believe that jury selection is the most important part of the trial. I believe you win or lose your case during voir dire because if you select or rather, "de-select" the wrong jurors you have lost or have an up hill battle. Hands on training-actually trying cases is the best way to improve the people reading skills necessary to pick a jury that will favor your side, but lawyers also attend numerous classes and training seminars designed to teach the art of jury selection
And,While still using the letter V, I would like to share with you a clip from one of my all time favorite movies, one I am sure you have all seen. My Cousin Vinny has to be one of the funniest films I have ever seen. I loved it.
We are just days and letters away from the finish line. Be sure to visit as many bloggers as possible who are participating in the 2012, A to Z blogging challenge