Voir Dire #atozchallenge

voir dire

Voir dire, at least in the United States, is the way lawyers in a jury trial choose jurors. The jurisdiction (which could be a state, county, city, district, or the federal government) will select a jury pool at random, usually from people registered to vote in that area, and a group of them will be assigned to a case. The judge might ask questions up front that might have a bearing on the case, such as whether a person has done business with the defendant or respondent, whether they know either of the parties, and if there will be a problem if the case runs several weeks. That usually eliminates some members of the pool. Then, each potential juror is called and interviewed by the lawyers, who ask them questions that might reveal a predisposition that could work against them.

I was called for jury duty by the Cobb County Superior Court. Even though I’m disabled and could have gotten out of it, I wanted to do it. On the first day, a couple hundred residents of the county (including me) were sworn in and divided into groups. My group was called to hear a civil case between a homeowner and a builder. As we walked in, the judge and all parties to the suit were standing and facing us. The judge asked us if we knew either the plaintiff or respondent, and also asked if any of us did business with an insurance company that was involved. Those of us who did were told we were eliminated from the pool and we could go home. Had I not been eliminated, the lawyers would have had a chance to ask me questions and to either accept or reject me for the jury.

Most people see jury duty as a huge pain in the ass, and the courthouse wasn’t completely handicapped-friendly, but I felt like my being there was appreciated. The Sixth Amendment guarantees everyone a trial by an impartial jury, and, as they told us when we were sworn in, the county couldn’t guarantee that unless we were there and willing to hear a case. They didn’t need me, as it turns out, but they needed me and everyone else to be there in case they did.

The day my mother-in-law died, she was called to jury duty. They were very understanding when I called and told them she couldn’t make it, and just asked for a holy card from the wake. We had plenty of them, fortunately…

25 thoughts on “Voir Dire #atozchallenge

  1. I was called for jury duty last year, and I was disappointed when I wasn’t even called for Voir Dire, I just sat there for two days in the pool and then we were all sent home. I would have liked to go through the process and do my civic duty!
    Jamie Lyn Weigt | Writing Dragons

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  2. I’ve only experienced voir dire once. When asked where I worked, I immediately got the hook. I’ve been to jury duty three other times but wasn’t called back.

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  3. Interesting read, John, and I’ve not heard of the term voir dire. I’ve never been called for jury duty and now I am above the age limit for Georgia. With that said my husband has been called several times, even since we moved to Georgia. We were here about 2 yrs when he was called.

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  4. Hi John!
    I had no idea there was a word for the process. I was called for jury duty five times in one year! My boss was pretty skeptical 😉 Luckily, I had the summons as proof.

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  5. Hi John – I’d never heard of the term … perhaps it’s different in England … but still I’m surprised I hadn’t come across it – interesting to read about though … cheers Hilary

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  6. I was in the jury pool for a case once and had to go back to the court for 3 days while they did the selecting. I was not chosen but it was interesting to sit and listen to the questions the lawyers were asking. It was a case involving a murder (young boy accused of killing his grandmother and burying her in the backyard). One of the questions they asked was if you had sons so they might have eliminated me because of that.

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    1. These days, the attorneys from both sides hire jury consultants who go over the jury pool, identify the people they don’t want on the jury and prepare questions for the jurors they aren’t sure of. They look at every aspect of you: what socioeconomic group you belong to, where you live, where you work and for how long, things you say on social media, whether you’ve committed a crime or been the victim of one, how many kids you have, political leanings, etc. etc. Do you ever watch the TV show “Bull” (Tuesday nights on CBS, check local listings)? That’s about a jury consultant, based on Dr. Phil McGraw, who was the jury consultant Oprah Winfrey used when she was sued by the Texas cattlemen. Not one of my favorites, but there’s nothing else on, and it’s pretty interesting. Gives some insight into the whole process.

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  7. When I was working yes, jury duty was a pain in the butt for me because I had to go to the choosing and I was always denied, but yet I HAD TOO BE THERE! grrrrrrr Use to make me really mad because I knew the outcome and being as I was a paralegal at the time and even before that.. even when I was a legal secretary they denied me. Also, denied because my Uncle was a Cook County Sheriff at the Correctional Center on 26th and California Ave (huge place), also my grandpa was a sheriff at one time & I had other cousins that worked for the city and a policeman I believe not to mention how many lawyers and even judges I knew. So conflict of interest or whatever I was never chosen, but now may be different because I’m retired… so I haven’t gotten notice in years, but we’ll see. Have a great day my friend… the end is near, so forward on TO VICTORY & THE END… until NEXT YEAR!!! bwahahaha

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    1. We had a friend that lived at 25th Place and California, and County Jail was practically in her back yard. Huge place is right.

      It’s like whenever I’d take a survey: one of my uncles worked for WLS-TV as a videotape editor. Being the honest kind of guy that I am, anytime they’d ask me if I was related to anyone in the media, I’d say yes, and that would disqualify me. He’s retired now, so I think I can stop saying I’m related to someone in the media…

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  8. Interesting story about your mother-in-law. Your grandfather, who lived to 96, was never called for jury duty in his entire life. Within a month of his death he received his first jury duty summons. We didn’t think he should serve 😀.

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    1. Not that it matters, but the summons came within a month after he died. I wasn’t very clear.

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  9. I’ve been called to jury duty many times. Where I live we have a policy – one day/one trial, so if you aren’t seated that first day for a trial that’s it. I’ve only been empaneled once, for a civil case, but it took almost two weeks. I found the particular questions I was asked during Voir Dire quite curious, and wondered exactly what the lawyers were looking for.

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    1. They’re looking for reasons they can use to justify rejecting you. Each side gets a certain number of free rejections. After that they have to explain why they want to reject someone.

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  10. I got called to jury duty back to back when I had two babies and two kids at home and I was permitted to decline based on hardship. It’d be easy enough for me to serve now, but I’d likely get dismissed due to occupation.

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  11. I never heard of this before so I’m glad to learn something new. If I was not working and the main financial supporter I wouldn’t mind being on a jury but if I was having to be on one now, it would hurt. I think you would make an excellent juror.

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  12. Void dire literally means “to see to talk” in French. That’s a good description of what counsel are doing in jury selection.

    I was empaneled on a felony assault case in Santa Clara County (California) Superior Court in 1985. There had been an altercation between a teenager and a fire captain on his porch. We acquitted the fire captain of assault after hearing testimony of across-the-street witnesses who we thought to be less biased than the alleged victim’s family. The fire captain thanked each of us jurors profusely after trial.

    I figured anytime I got into serious trouble, I should call San Jose criminal defense attorney Harry Robertson. He did an excellent job.

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  13. John,

    Voi Dire is another word I did not know how to say. It sounds like vor dear. That’s not the way the dictionary shows the pronunciation but the way I would write it. 🙂 I know the court system needs proof of what you said but couldn’t they find this out for themselves. I bet they have access to all records across the whole state. I’m curious, what would’ve happened had you not called to let them know you MIL couldn’t make jury duty because she’s dead? You’re teaching me a thing or two in your A2Z series which I value, my friend. Have a good day! Victory is just around the corner. 😀

    ~Curious as a Cathy
    A2Z iPad Art Sketch ‘V’ Victorian Lady

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    1. Mark (lecycliste) is the only person I know who could pronounce it right: his father was a lawyer, his mother was a French teacher.

      Public records being what they are, and the law being what it is, while there might be a record of her death, the courts wouldn’t have access to it without a subpoena. No idea what they’d do after that.

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