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What is Asked During Voir Dire?

By Jeremy Laukkonen
Updated May 16, 2024
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Questions asked during voir dire are typically designed to determine the personal feelings and experiences of the jury pool. The questions may be asked of individual jurors, or an affirmative response can be requested by a show of hands. If a criminal case is being tried, the questions may relate to whether the potential jurors have been victims or what their personal feelings are towards the crime involved. Civil cases will often involve questions about occupations and personal experiences as they relate to the case. Another question commonly asked during voir dire is whether the jurors know or are familiar with the involved parties, their lawyers, or the judge.

The purpose of voir dire is for the lawyers on each side to get a good picture of the jury pool. Each side is typically allowed to remove a number of jurors from the pool, and they use the information learned from voir dire to excuse people they feel may have a bias. It is typically inadvisable to feign or invent a bias during this process to appear undesirable to either side. Answering the questions honestly can allow each side to remove jurors with actual biases.

At the beginning of the voir dire process, the legal counsel for each side will typically be given a period of time to ask questions. This will usually begin with general questions asked of the entire pool. The initial questions are often very generic in nature, and may ask if anyone in the pool has been a juror or has any legal knowledge. For a civil case, the entire pool is often asked if they know what the difference is between a civil and criminal trial, and what is meant by a preponderance of evidence.

After a general question has been asked, individual jurors may be singled out to explain why they answered yes or no. A juror may be asked to elaborate on his personal experience with the judicial system or what his feelings are on the different burden of proof required for a civil trial. Beyond questions that relate directly to the trial at hand, jurors may be asked about their backgrounds, employment and families. A juror survey is often handed out prior to the voir dire process, and individual questions for particular jurors may address the information that was provided.

Some of the questions may seem intrusive, though they are typically designed to help the lawyers determine potential sources of bias. After the questioning process is finished, each side can typically request that a certain number of potential jurors be dismissed from the pool. The answers given during voir dire are cited when asking that someone be dismissed with cause, so each juror challenged in this way may be asked to elaborate on an earlier response.

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