Under Arrest - V is for Voir Dire

Photo Credit: Suzy Allman

Welcome to the letter V of the 2019 A-Z Blogging Challenge!

V is for Voir Dire, and as promised in my H is for Hung Jury post, I'll talk about the process of jury selection for a trial. Technically it's not a selection, but a process of elimination, but let's not get ahead of ourselves.

Voir Dire is French and literally translates to "watch saying", but the meaning is "to speak the truth" because you're supposed to answer the lawyer's (for the prosecution as well as for the defense) questions honestly so they may learn about your life experience and values. 

If you're an American (or from any other country that has a comparable legal system) citizen older than 18 but younger than 70 years old, it may very well happen that one day you'll get a letter saying you need to show up at court for jury duty. 

Once you're there (in some waiting area of the court building) you're part of the Venire, and you'll have to fill in a questionnaire that asks about your English skills (after all you'll have to be able to closely follow the trial and deliberate with your fellow jurors), your training and employment history, especially if you work for any government agency (in that case they can't accept you as a juror) your criminal record and your race - yes, they want to know whether you're White, Black, Hispanic or Asian.

Later they may call your name, and you'll come into the actual court room, where the process of Voir Dire happens. Depending on the case they'll ask you different questions. 

In any case the judge and two sets of lawyers (prosecution and defense) want to find out who you are, what you think about certain things and how you feel about law enforcement and the death penalty (if applicable).

Not only do they want to know about yourself but about your friends or family as well. 

Why? If your boyfriend or brother is a police officer, you have knowledge about how hard their job is and what crazy and violent people they have to deal with all day long, so you may be in favor of the prosecution.

Your leadership skills may be an asset. Even if you don't advertise them in your job description, they can be detected in the way you behave during this interview. You may ask  counter questions or be assertive towards a fellow juror. Typically both lawyers like that because during deliberation they need jurors who can take charge and rally the rest of the group behind a unanimous decision (great for the prosecution) or you are not afraid to be the odd one out saying you disagree with everyone else, resulting in a hung jury (great for the defense). 

Here's a fabulous example of a guy who lead the group to a consent:

Part One talks about the case itself and the different opinions during deliberation:

Part Two comes to a conclusion, and again, I think the guy in the Vichy shirt did a great job:

Back to how the jury is selected:

Generally both set of lawyers like to pick people who help their cause or at the very least don't hurt it.

Understandably they don't want to deal with jurors who think the justice system sucks, who are unwilling to presume the defendant's innocence, who are next door neighbors of a witness (they may be biased) who indicate that (insert race) are all scammers, drug dealers, etc. Scott Peterson's sister in law Janey claimed that the juror nicknamed Strawberry Shortcake should have been removed from the jury because she herself was a pregnant assault victim who may (and ended up doing so, strongly and loudly) favor the prosecution.

These jurors can be excluded "for cause".

Sometimes you have to get rid of a juror because they have been convicted of a felony themselves. As I mentioned earlier, they are supposed to indicate prior convictions in their juror questionnaire. 

A gentleman who was a juror on Shayna Hubers' trial didn't do so. He probably didn't even think that not paying child support (and the related conviction) would disqualify him from serving on the jury, but it did. Because it was revealed only after the trial, Shayna was granted a retrial. Not that the outcome would have changed, though, she was once again found guilty and sentenced to 20 years with the possibility of parole.

Who was Shayna Hubers again? The crazy bitch who couldn't handle being dumped by her (ex-) boyfriend Ryan Poston and shot him six times at close range in his apartment in Highland Heights, Kentucky, claiming it was in self-defense. She's also a super smart young woman who graduated cum laude in psychology and is an excellent singer:

Back to reasons to exclude jurors. 

There are a number of no clause or peremptory challenges: = ways to get rid of jurors without giving a reason. 

Such challenges allow each side to dismiss jurors who are otherwise qualified, but appear likely to favor the opposing party. However, peremptory challenges cannot be used to exclude jurors on the basis of race or class.

The pool of Casey Antony's jurors began shrinking as the judge allowed many to go home for financial and family reasons. –The jury could have been sequestered (I'll talk about it in a minute) for months, preventing jurors from working or taking care of family.

Additionally, in the Casey Anthony case, due to the massive publicity, the jury selection process took place in Clearwater, Florida rather than in Orlando where the actual crime took place, in the hopes of finding a jury pool untainted by the media attention. 

The same thing happened in Scott Peterson's case. Not a soul in Modesto would not have heard about the case and form some kind of opinion or even know some of the people involved, this is why they had to go to Redwood, CA, which is 90 miles away.

This is called a change of venue.
Here is some insight on how your everyday life as a sequestered juror looks like: 

You stay at a hotel for the duration of the trial.

The court has all electronic devices removed fro your room. You can't watch TV, you can't make phone calls and you sure as h*** can't go online. Of course there's no newspaper either.

You go and get your meals together with your fellow jurors at a restaurant designated by the court. 

If one of the jurors wants to go outside for a smoke, you all have to go. I guess it's to make sure there are no private conversations or bonding going on. 

You don't stay at one hotel for too long at a time, instead you get shuttled to different  locations because there may always be that hotel employee leaking information to the media "hey, the jurors are staying here with us."
Have you ever been on jury duty? What was the case about? Would you love or hate to be a juror? Why? Let me know in the comments below.
Before you leave, here's a snapshot of Mr Trump in 2015. He, too, was a juror.

Photo Credit: David Hamburger

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay


  1. I've been called to jury duty 4 times, but have not served as a juror (the first time I didn't have to serve because you could be excluded for being female...that law has changed since then).

  2. I've never had to deal with a questionnaire. Oh wait, I guess that's the thing that comes with the jury summons. It's not really much of a questionnaire, at least not here.

    Yeah, as you can tell, I've been summoned for jury duty. A few times.

  3. i've never actually heard of venire :o i was on a jury trial once and received several other summons but its interesting that they arrive sporadically.

    Joy at The Joyous Living

  4. I was among those selected to be a prospective juror on a case once but never made it to the final selection. I was a bit relieved as it was a case involving a man accused of murdering his grandmother and burying her in the backyard. I made it as far as being in the room as they were asking the preliminary questions. That part was very interesting. I watched the video. I don't understand how the jury could not believe that she knew what was happing to her baby. Sad case.
    Janet’s Smiles


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