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Voir dire (French for “to tell the truth”), like the pre-trial motions period, is an extremely important aspect in the trial process. In fact many attorneys believe that voir dire the single most vital procedure in the entire trial.

The purpose of jury selection is to obtain a fair and impartial jury; however the process itself is heavily nuanced and full of clever maneuvering with the goal of getting the most fitting jury to reach the desired outcome.

If your client is on trial for drug trafficking, you want to avoid a juror whose family member may have died from a drug overdose. A skilled trial defense attorney will be able to weed out potential jurors who may have certain biases or prejudices that do not amount to giving the defendant the best chance at an acquittal.

Perhaps they have prejudices that do work in the defendant’s favor; it is the defense attorney’s job to get those 6 (misdemeanor) or 12 (felony) men and women on the final panel.

Potential jurors can be challenged for any reason, but typically they are eliminated if they have already formed an opinion on the case or stand to benefit somehow from the outcome.

A certain number of peremptory challenges, or challenges without cause, allow either side to simply eliminate a potential juror from the pool without having to give any reason.

The selection process is shaped by a number of factors, many psychological, that go into selecting the best but not always the fairest, jury possible.

The law prescribes that jurors must be questioned and selected based on fairness and competence, however voir dire is truly a trial within a trial, sometimes lasting as long as the actual trial itself, where ending up with even a slightly favorable jury can swing the odds of winning in either the defense or the prosecution’s favor.


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