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Voir dire refers to the jury selection process, a critical step in any criminal case going to trial. Those selected as members of a jury will decide the fate of the criminal defendant. The importance of voir dire cannot really be understated. Let us take a moment to walk through what happens during this crucial phase in a criminal case.

What Happens During Voir Dire?

While the process varies slightly from county to county, the critical aspects of voir dire remain constant. Those called in for jury duty are assigned a number. When a prospective juror has his or her number called, they are brought into a courtroom as part of the “jury pool.” Both the prosecuting and defense attorneys are provided basic information about each prospective juror in the jury pool. This basic information usually involves the age, marital status, and occupation of each juror. It may also include whether or not the juror has ever been involved in a lawsuit. This basic information is provided to the attorneys to give them a general sense of who you are and potentially the biases or conflicts of interest you may carry into the case.

Once the jury pool is seated, the judge will give a short introduction and provide an overview of the process to come. The judge will then yield the floor to the attorneys. Both sides are usually allowed a certain amount of time in order to ask general questions of the jury pool. These are often “yes” or “no” questions. If the answer is “yes,” a prospective juror will raise his or her number. The judge will then usually permit the attorneys for each side to ask follow up questions after getting the answers to the general questions. The follow up questions are designed to gather more information relating to the answers to the general questions. For instance, if a juror responded that he or she had been injured in a car accident before, then the attorneys may want to know things like the circumstances surrounding the car accident and whether legal proceedings were involved.

Then, the attorneys are given an opportunity to strike prospective jurors from the jury pool. It is often a misconception or a misuse of words to say that you have been “selected” for a jury. Really, what happens is that you are not eliminated from the jury pool and so you then go on to serve on the jury. A juror may be struck due to a challenge for cause. Challenges for cause are unlimited. The judge need only agree with the basis for the challenge. A challenge for cause must be based on a legal reason why a juror is unable or unfit to serve.

Alternatively, a juror may be struck because he or she was subject to a peremptory challenge. For felony trials, both the prosecution and the defense each have 10 peremptory challenges. In a misdemeanor case, each side has 3. A peremptory challenge can be used for any reason and a reason does not even have to be provided. A peremptory challenge cannot, however, be used based on discriminatory factors such as race or gender. Should defense suspect that a prosecutor has made a peremptory challenge for discriminatory reasons, then the defense may assert a “Batson Challenge” which brings the reason for the peremptory challenge into question. The prosecutor must be able to assert a non-discriminatory reason for the challenge.

Criminal Law Attorneys

At Navarrete & Schwartz, we take great care at every step of criminal proceedings. We have the experience and knowledge to most effectively represent and pursue the best interests of our clients at every turn. You trust us with your future and your freedom. This is not a responsibility we take lightly. We are here to fight for you. We are proud to serve the residents of Midland, Texas. Contact us today.