How important is voir dire to your criminal case?
Being charged with a serious criminal offense isn’t the same as being convicted. While the prosecution may push for a quick deal, many defendants want their day in court in front of the jury.
Putting your future in the hands of 12 strangers isn’t exactly easy to do, however. You want to know that the people selected to serve on that jury are capable of being fair and impartial. That’s where voir dire comes in.
What’s voir dire?
Voir dire is the process of sorting through the prospective jury pool and trying to eliminate those who have biases that prejudice them either for or against some party involved in the case (including the government).
While both the prosecution and the defense want to weed out any juror with a hidden agenda or a clear bias, they usually have somewhat different goals when it comes to who they’d like to see seated in the jury box.
The defense, naturally, wants jurors who might resonate with their client or their client’s situation. The prosecution, of course, wants jurors that they think will identify more with the victims in a case. Both sides want to take the opportunity that voir dire gives them to connect with the jury in a way that they cannot do during trial.
In truth, many attorneys believe that cases can be won or lost during voir dire because that’s when:
- Both sides have a chance to develop a connection or establish a rapport with the jurors. An attorney with the right approach can quickly earn the jury’s trust, which means that jurors may put more weight on their words.
- Both sides can educate the jury about the trial process and help them understand the gravitas of their responsibility to the court, the defendant and society as a whole.
- The defense can start to humanize their client to the jury, so that they see them as a real person who deserves the presumption of innocence and all the protections they are due under the law.
- The prosecution can start to build empathy for the victim or victims in a trial, deserving of justice for whatever happened to them.
When someone’s been charged with a serious crime, they deserve a serious defense. That means starting strong, from voir dire onward.