“I’m not calling the cops unless she’s got a gun to my head”. That was a great nugget that a potential juror gave me when I was prosecuting a case involving a male victim of domestic violence. Was that the type of juror I wanted behind closed doors deliberating? No. But it’s exactly what I needed someone to say during the selection process.
Selecting a jury is one of the most difficult and most important things to do during trial. If done right, potentially, a case can be won during voir dire. Voir dire is a french term that means ‘to speak the truth’. The truth attorneys want to know is: what are your biases? Can you listen to the evidence fairly? Or will you ignore everything I say? If a juror has already heard something about a case they could potentially be biased. For example in the Colorado theater shooting case, the largest jury pool in history will be gathered. http://www.foxnews.com/us/2015/01/20/jury-selection-to-begin-in-colorado-theater-shooting-trial/ That pool will be winnowed down to the final jurists who claim they have not heard anything about the case. More on ‘undercover’ jurors in an upcoming post.
The one piece of advice I took to heart about void dire is: embrace being uncomfortable. Void dire requires attorneys to ask probing questions. Having done dozens of voir dires about domestic violence against men and women, I always aim to get someone to speak up and say exactly what everyone is thinking but doesn’t want to say. “If there is even a chance he’s guilty they ought to string him up and hang em” Another nugget extracted in an alleged child sex case. All the jurors that secretly agree with these types of statements are given a voice. Once they speak up, I identify them, ask them further questions, and exclude them based on their answers.
The worst thing to happen in a case is to get an attorney who is afraid to ask the tough questions. A good attorney knows that during a voir dire, you want to hear the seemingly unfavorable answers. Otherwise, you could get an unfavorable verdict.