This post is authored by Dave Schmitt, a partner in LDM’s litigation department. Mr. Schmitt draws upon his years of trial experience to discuss some of his thoughts on jury selection and provide a tool for selecting your next jury.
Parties resolve disputes through litigation and the trial process. Typically a dispute in a legal case is decided by a jury rendering a verdict at the conclusion of the trial. The individuals serving on the jury are sworn to give a verdict on the basis of the evidence submitted to them in court. Depending on the jurisdiction, a jury may be comprised of up to 12 people. The art of jury selection is the process by which jurors are selected from a large pool of individuals and sworn to return a fair and just verdict. The process of jury selection, in legal terms, is known as “voir dire.” The origin of the term voir dire is Anglo-French and means “to speak the truth.”
At the beginning of a trial, attorneys will question potential jurors in an effort to determine the existence of any bias or prejudice that would prevent the individual from serving on the jury in a fair and impartial manner. Attorneys typically seek to obtain credibility with the potential jurors by explaining the voir dire process is not meant to pry into their lives. Establishing credibility is important to encourage juror candor and obtain complete, honest answers.
Attorneys are each given a specified number of preemptory challenges to exercise at the conclusion of questioning. An attorney exercises preemptory challenges to exclude those individuals the attorney believes, based on answers given, could be biased and detrimental to that attorney’s client. I utilize an outline which contains areas of questioning I address as a defense attorney. Attorneys will typically want to ask additional questions tailored to the specific case. However, this outline is a useful tool to elicit potential juror bias or prejudice and will assist you in the art of jury selection.