Picking a jury is a philosophical and psychological exercise in knowing about people and their personal behaviors. Or, better said, the attorneys select the jurors with specific thoughts in mind.
Voire Dire is the name for picking out a jury for a trial. The jurors are given notices in the mail that they need to report for jury duty locally in their towns. The potential jurors are sent to the courtroom, introduced to the attorneys and the process begins. A jury can consist of six or sometimes twelve people. As part of this process, the judge and the attorneys will ask the potential jurors questions to see if they have heard, read or know anything about the case at hand. Let’s say that the case was regarding fault in a horrific automobile accident. If the person has strong feelings either way about it, exhibits a prejudice towards either party, or shows that he or she can’t be impartial and fair if involved in the process, the attorneys may decide not to choose that person for the jury.
The questions that are discussed during the Voire Dire are to flesh out how the potential juror feels about the case. For example, in a personal injury trial a juror may be asked if they have ever sued an insurance company or another driver, to check for bias. If the attorney just comes out and asks the questions, the person may feel ashamed to answer truthfully and may hedge his or her answers. The better way to approach the potential juror is to establish rapport and ease into the most important questions.
I once heard a story about Voire Dire, I can’t vouch for its veracity. It appears there was this gentleman who was well known in his community. He was picked several times in his life to potentially go onto a jury. Each time, he would go to Voire Dire as directed. As the attorneys began to ask him questions, his eyes would take on a wistful look. As he was asked if he could be impartial, he always said, yes, he could be fair and impartial and… it was that “and” that got them every time.
You see, this gentleman always ended his statement with “And, I can’t wait to be part of this jury because I always used to watch Perry Mason as a young lad, and always wanted to act like a lawyer. My dream is to be able to tell those lawyers what they are doing right and doing wrong, and this will be my one big chance to be Perry Mason myself. I’ve waited all my life for this opportunity, and I plan to go out with a bang, thank you in advance.” I am sure you can see why the attorneys would have second thoughts about putting this gentleman on their juries.
If the attorney decides not to use a person, then the attorney can suggest to the judge that the person be excused from sitting on the case as a juror. This situation is referred to as challenging a juror. Jurors can be challenged for cause or as a preemptory challenge. If the person is challenged for cause, it means that the attorney has determined that there is a cause or reason for not wanting the juror. If the person is peremptorily challenged, then there is no reason that the attorney has to give for not wanting the person. Some judges allow the attorneys to submit the reasons on paper, so that no one is embarrassed as to the reasons he or she was not selected by the attorney. Each court has limits to how many jurors can be dismissed for challenge.
Personal Injury matter cases are difficult and require a skilled litigator. Picking a sound and unbiased jury is a difficult process. Make certain your accident attorney has trial experience in case your case needs to go all the way.
If you have any questions regarding your case in court, call the law offices of Ledger & Associates at 1-800-300-0001 or email us at www.ledgerlaw.com for more information.