Maybe you’ve heard this before (and maybe you haven’t), but a lot of attorneys believe that many criminal cases can be won or lost in voir dire.
Voir dire is the term used for the jury selection process. Specifically, it’s the process of weeding out biased would-be jurors so that the defendant is tried before a fair and impartial panel of their peers.
How are biased jurors eliminated from panels?
A lot of the voir dire process involves prosecutors, defense attorneys and even the judge in a case asking questions. In serious cases, like those involving homicides, jurors may be given written questionnaires to complete that ask about things like their knowledge of any publicity surrounding the case, their own experiences with the judicial system and any inherent biases they have about the defendant or the applicable laws.
Both the prosecution and the defense want a fair jury. The defense needs to protect their client’s interests. The prosecution needs to protect the trial process so that the verdict doesn’t end up overturned on appeal due to juror misconduct.
Why is voir dire so much more than just eliminating bad jurors?
Voir dire also gives an experienced advocate the ability to do a lot more. They can use their chance to interact with the potential jurors to:
- Develop a comfortable rapport with the panel and establish mutual respect
- Help the jury see the accused as a real person in a complex situation
- Impress upon the jury how important it is to respect the trial process
- Help the jurors see themselves as integral to a fair trail and the rule of law
In short, voir dire is the first chance to make contact with every person who will ultimately make up a jury – and you never get a second chance to make those first impressions. That’s why it’s so important to choose your defense team with care.