voir dire

(redirected from voir dires)
Also found in: Dictionary, Medical.

Voir Dire

[Old French, To speak the truth.] The preliminary examination of prospective jurors to determine their qualifications and suitability to serve on a jury, in order to ensure the selection of fair and impartial jury.

Voir dire consists of oral questions asked of prospective jurors by the judge, the parties, or the attorneys, or some combination thereof. This oral questioning, often supplemented by a prior written questionnaire, is used to determine whether a potential juror is biased, knows any of the parties, counsel, or witnesses, or should otherwise be excluded from jury duty. Voir dire is a tool used to achieve the constitutional right to an impartial jury, but it is not a constitutional right in itself.

Typically, a number of prospective jurors are called to the jury box, given an oath, and then questioned as a group by counsel or the court. Local federal rules generally provide for questioning by the judge. Individual or sequestered voir dire is used in rare cases where extensive publicity may potentially damage a defendant's case; some jurisdictions mandate it in death penalty cases. A prospective juror must answer questions fully and truthfully but cannot be faulted for failing to disclose information that was not sought.

The purpose of voir dire is not to educate jurors but to enable the parties to select an impartial panel. Therefore, voir dire questions should test the capacity and competency of the jurors without intentionally or unintentionally planting prejudicial matter in their minds. Trial judges have wide latitude in setting the parameters of questioning, including the abilities to determine the materiality and propriety of the questions and to set the time allowed for voir dire.

A party may move for dismissal for cause to remove any potential juror shown to be connected to or biased in the case. A court may sustain counsel's request to strike a juror for cause, in which case the juror steps aside and another is called. Or a judge may overrule a challenge for cause if a suitable reason has not been sufficiently established. Challenges for cause are not limited in number.

Each side also exercises peremptory challenges to further shape the composition of the jury. Peremptory challenges are used to dismiss a prospective juror without the need to provide a reason for dismissal. Statutes or court rules typically set the number of peremptory challenges afforded to a party.

Voir dire also describes a court's preliminary examination of a prospective witness whose competency or qualifications have been challenged.

West's Encyclopedia of American Law, edition 2. Copyright 2008 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.

voir dire

(vwahr [with a near-silent "r"] deer) n. from French "to see to speak," the questioning of prospective jurors by a judge and attorneys in court. Voir dire is used to determine if any juror is biased and/or cannot deal with the issues fairly, or if there is cause not to allow a juror to serve (knowledge of the facts, acquaintanceship with parties, witnesses or attorneys, occupation which might lead to bias, prejudice against the death penalty, or previous experiences such as having been sued in a similar case). Actually one of the unspoken purposes of the voir dire is for the attorneys to get a feel for the personalities and likely views of the people on the jury panel. In some courts the judge asks most of the questions, while in others the lawyers are given substantial latitude and time to ask questions. Some jurors may be dismissed for cause by the judge, and the attorneys may excuse others in "peremptory" challenges without stating any reason. 2) any hearing outside the presence of the jury held during trial. (See: jury, peremptory challenge)

Copyright © 1981-2005 by Gerald N. Hill and Kathleen T. Hill. All Right reserved.

voir dire

‘to speak the truth’, a trial within a trial or initial inquisition to see if a confession is voluntary. In some US states it is used in the process of empanelling jurors.
Collins Dictionary of Law © W.J. Stewart, 2006
References in periodicals archive ?
The simple truth is that attorneys must be willing to rethink their approach to voir dire and to appreciate the crucial role they have in selecting a fair venire.
Only by opening up to the prospective venire, and by accepting that answers received may be unsettling, can the trial lawyer progress to the point where voir dire is meaningful and revealing.
Jones, Judge-Versus Attorney-Conducted Voir Dire: An Empirical Investigation of Juror Candor, 11 Law & hum Behav 131-146 (June 1987).
Other Ways To Improve The Voir Dire Process in Jury Selection, 78 Chi Kent L rev 1179, 1183.
(11.) See Jones, Judge-Versus Attorney-Conducted Voir Dire, 11 Law & hum Behav at 143 (cited in note 2).
(29.) See Gary Moran, Brian Cutler, and Elizabeth Loftus, Jury selection in major controlled substance trials: the need for extended voir dire, 3 Forensic rep 331, 346 (1990); Douglas J.
It is important for attorneys to conduct the questioning because voir dire is the best time for them to establish rapport with jurors.
But having attorney-conducted voir dire is no guarantee of juror candor.
Voir dire should be viewed as direct examination, where attorneys usually want the witness to talk, rather than cross-examination, where they try to limit a witness's testimony open-ended questions give jurors an opportunity to reveal bias, and they also increase juror satisfaction with the process.
Even though voir dire in federal courts is usually more limited than in state courts, federal courts have led the way in using SJQs.
district judge for the District of Arizona, has found that 1 in 3 prospective jurors will admit in an SJQ to knowing someone close who has been sexually abused, while only 1 in 10 will do so in oral voir dire in open court.(8)
* Where a court is not convinced that public awareness of a case is sufficiently widespread to require extensive or individual voir dire, juror responses to SJQs call provide compelling data demonstrating the actual level of juror awareness of the case.