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Motion for Voir Dire
CHOOSING A JURY OF YOUR PEERS
What Is Jury Selection?
Jury selection is the many methods used to choose the people who will serve on a jury. The jury pool, also known as the venire, is first selected from among the community using a reasonably random method. Jury lists are compiled from voter registrations and driver license/state ID renewals.
In most criminal trials, 12 people are selected to be on the jury. Up to 15 jurors can be empanelled if a trial is expected to last longer than three months. To be empanelled means to be chosen for a specific trial. During voir dire, attorneys attempt to delve more deeply into the jury panel member’s responses provided in their written juror questionnaires. The goal is to gain a better understanding of each person individually as well as potential group dynamics.
Note: A jury trial or trial by jury is a legal proceeding in which a jury either makes a decision or makes findings of fact, which then direct the actions of a judge. It is distinguished from a bench trial, in which a judge or panel of judges make all decisions.
Artist: Julie Larson
How Is The Jury Selected?
“Voir Dire” refers to the second stage of jury procedures, and is the process by which the court and the attorneys narrow down the pool of juries to the 12 people that will decide the case. The process for voir dire varies from state to state, and even from judge to judge. Sometimes, if the juror pool is too large, the judge will randomly pick some people and excuse them from duty. For many people, this is the best-case scenario.
Normally, however, the judge and attorneys will interview each juror about their backgrounds and beliefs. Sometimes this happens in front of the rest of the jury pool; sometimes this happens in private. Each attorney has the chance to object to jurors. There are two types of objections: “peremptory challenges” and “challenges for cause.” When an attorney challenges a juror for cause, there was most likely something in the juror’s background that would prejudice them in the case. For example, it is likely that an attorney would not allow a retired police officer to sit on a jury that decides a police brutality case. Attorneys do not need to give reasons for peremptory challenges, but each side only gets a limited number of these types of challenges. Of course, an attorney is not allowed to use peremptory challenges based on the race or gender of potential jurors.
That’s right—all this before even trial! Jury selection is a critical part of the judicial process. It is critical for you to have a skilled criminal defense attorney that can read a group of people well, and moves swiftly through the process. Because let’s face it—a jury is a group of your peers, and your peers are diverse. Some want to be here, others don’t.
Why Is Jury Selection So Important?
For both the criminal defense and prosecution, voir dire constitutes a very important part of a jury trial. Effective voir dire can work to identify jurors who can be fair and impartial, rather than unfair and biased regarding a particular party or the entire criminal justice system. Clearly, the desired ultimate outcome in a jury trial is different for the prosecution and defense. However, both sides essentially have similar goals during the voir dire and jury selection process. Those goals include beginning to:
- Gather information about individual prospective jurors regarding their potential to be fair-minded and impartial, and to apply the law as instructed;
- Educate the jury about the parties’ respective theories of the case;
- Develop a rapport with, and earn the trust and respect of, the jury;
- Have the jury see the attorneys as dedicated, hardworking professionals, as well as people they can trust;
- For the prosecution, have the jury see the alleged victim as a real victim deserving of justice for all that he or she has been through, and regarding the accused, to keep and strengthen his or her identity primarily as the defendant;
- For the criminal defense, have the jury see the accused as a multi-dimensional individual and to humanize him or her;
- For the criminal defense, introduce the concept of presumed innocent until and unless found guilty beyond a reasonable doubt;
- Introduce the jury to potential problem areas in the case and commence dealing with those weaknesses; and
- Demystify the jury trial process and emphasize the importance, power and serious nature of jury service in a society governed by the rule of law.
As you can see, each and every step of the criminal defense process is critical and requires the training of a skilled criminal defense attorney. As with any criminal case, a defendant makes a major mistake if he/she attempts to make their way through the system without an aggressive criminal defense lawyer to stand up for their rights. Contact Monder Law today for a free San Diego DUI attorney initial consultation regarding your case. Vik Monder represents clients in throughout San Diego.