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What Is Voir Dire And What Is Its Purpose?


In a criminal case, voir dire constitutes a crucial part of a jury trial for the defense and prosecution. Generally, voir dire is essential to the selection of a fair and impartial jury. Indeed, the desired outcome in a jury trial is different for the defense and prosecution. However, both the prosecution and defense want impartial and fair jury members and not unfair and biased jurors in a jury trial. In this article, get to learn the meaning of voir dire and the purpose of this process.

Understanding Voir Dire

Being summoned for jury service in the United States does not guarantee that an individual will actually serve on a jury. Usually, when a jury is required for a criminal trial, a group of qualified individuals will be taken to the courtroom where the trial will occur. There, the qualified individuals answer questions from the judge and attorneys. This process of questioning jurors to determine which juror is suitable to serve on the jury and which one is not is known as voir dire.

Voir dire is a process for eliciting information relevant to prospective jurors’ qualifications for service. In other words, the voir dire process discloses prospective jury members who cannot fulfill a juror’s obligations. The purpose of voir dire is to ensure that people who cannot impartially evaluate evidence or decide a case fairly are excluded from the jury. Generally, voir dire aims to ensure that individuals who have information about the case in question, know any of the parties involved in the case, or may have strong prejudices about the issues or parties involved in the case are excluded from the jury.

What Questions Are Asked During Voir Dire?

Judges and attorneys ask potential jurors a variety of questions during voir dire. Voir dire questions can be asked to help a judge or attorney determine if a potential juror meets the statutory requirements for being a juror. For example, a judge or attorney may ask whether an individual is a U.S. citizen, at least eighteen years of age, proficient in English, subject to felony charges or has ever been convicted of a felony.

Questions during voir dire may also be asked so that an attorney or judge can understand a potential juror’s view of the case. For example, an attorney may choose to ask if a juror views the police as always being truthful. Or, if a potential juror is a professional in a particular field, an attorney or judge may ask them if they would be willing to set aside their professional knowledge in viewing the evidence.

What Goals Do the Prosecution and Defense Have During the Voir Dire?

As already mentioned, the purpose of voir dire is to determine which potential jurors have the ability to be fair-minded and impartial. Apart from that, both the prosecution and defense usually have other similar goals during the voir dire process. Those goals include;

  • Informing the jurors about the parties’ respective theories of the case
  • Earning the trust of the jury
  • For the prosecution, having the jurors see the alleged victim as a real victim who deserves justice.
  • For the defense, having the jury humanize the defendant
  • Introducing the jurors to potential weak areas in the case and beginning dealing with those weaknesses

Contact an NYC Criminal Defense Attorney

For more information on the criminal prosecution process or help with a criminal case, contact the experienced NYC criminal defense attorney Mark I. Cohen, Esq. at 917-414-8585.



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