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A. PURPOSE OF VOIR DIRE - MN Bench Book - Trial Procedures & Practices for Judges
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A. PURPOSE OF VOIR DIRE

From MN Bench Book - Trial Procedures & Practices for Judges

1. THE LAW: Voir dire examinations can be conducted:
a. For the purpose of discovering a basis for a. challenge for cause, or
b. To gain information that will help the lawyer to intelligently exercise a peremptory challenge.
(See Rule 26.02, subds. 4(1) and 5, Minn. R. Crim. P.; Minn. Stat. § 546.10; Rules 808 and 809, Gen. R. Pract.; and State v. Mulroy, 152 Minn. 423, 189 N.W. 441 (1922).
2. THE LAWYERS VIEW- Many lawyers believe, and in fact are taught, that the purposes of voir dire are to:
a. Educate the prospective jurors
b. Introduce trial themes
c. Begin to persuade prospective jurors to the examiner's point of view
d. Establish rapport with the jurors
e. Extract certain commitments from jurors
f. Obtain jurors who will decide in the examiner's favor

Typical of the lawyer's view is the advice given by the author of an article in Trial, October 1996, entitled, "Selecting a Jury for a Complex Trial." He said:

Voir dire in a business case is your chance to educate jurors about the facts, establish rapport with them, and set the tone for a trial that may last for months.

Another example of advice reflecting this view comes again from Trial, August 1985. In an article entitled, "Voir Dire It's Just a Whiplash," the author suggests that the lawyer address the panel as follows:

Ladies and gentlemen, I believe the entire defense in this case will consist of Mr. Defense Lawyer calling my client's injury a "whiplash." Now is there anyone here who cannot put aside the negative thoughts this sort of name calling creates and fairly evaluate my client's injuries?

3. THE JURORS VIEW: Most jurors find voir dire to be:

a. Embarrassing
b. Unnecessarily personal
c. Extremely repetitious
d. Boring
e. Time wasting
f. Insulting

Some jurors find it to be an opportunity to educate everyone else as to their attitudes, opinions and gripes about the law, the legal system, lawsuits and lawyers.

4. THE JUDGES'S VIEW: Judges' attitudes toward voir dire vary widely, but, to the extent one can generalize, most judges probably would agree that:

a. Voir dire is often needlessly long.
b. Lawyers frequently attempt to try their cases at this stage.
c. The jurors' privacy needs to be protected by the judge.
d. Questions are often unfair.
e. Lawyers expect "perfect," not human, jurors.

It is useful to know the purposes of voir dire as prescribed by the law and as viewed by the lawyers, jurors and judges so that you can be more fully informed as you prepare to approach this phase of the trial.