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G. VOIR DIRE A SUMMARY - MN Bench Book - Trial Procedures & Practices for Judges
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G. VOIR DIRE A SUMMARY

From MN Bench Book - Trial Procedures & Practices for Judges

VOIR DIRE GUIDELINES

PURPOSES

Voir dire examinations of prospective jurors may be conducted

1. for the purpose of discovering bases for challenge for cause, and

2. for the purpose of gaining knowledge to facilitate an informed exercise of peremptory challenges.

(See Minn. R. Crim. P. 26.02, subd. 4(1), and Minn. Stat. § 546.10.)

IMPARTIALITY

The test of an impartial juror is not that he shall be completely ignorant of the facts and issues, but that he can lay aside his impression or opinion and render a verdict based on the evidence presented in court.

(See State v. Andrews, 282 Minn. 386, 165 N.W.2d 528, 534 (1969)).

SCOPE OF VOIR DIRE

Attorneys may ask only questions that directly and clearly relate to the purpose of voir dire, stated above. They may not ask any of the following types or categories of questions:

1. Those designed primarily to educate or indoctrinate jurors as to theories, facts, strategies, or problems in the case;

2. Questions intended or designed to predispose jurors to be in favor of or against a party, a witness, or some aspect of the case; e.g.

a. Are you in favor of strict and strong enforcement of all criminal laws?

b. Do you agree that society as well as the defendant has rights that must be protected?

3. Questions that are merely arguments of the case;

4. Questions that are hypothetical in nature;

5. Questions which ask the jurors to commit themselves to vote in a certain way or take any position whatsoever, before they heard the evidence;

6. Questions which instruct the jurors as to the law in the case;

7. Questions which attempt to present evidence;

8. Repeat questions already asked by the judge and to which clear and complete answers have been given;

9. Those asking jurors to speculate as to what their reactions might be to certain evidence; or

10. Those asking jurors how certain evidence is likely to influence their verdict.

BASIC APPROACH

Attorneys on voir dire are entitled to receive information through questions designed to achieve the proper purposes of voir dire. They are not, however, entitled to give information about the facts or the law in the case.

ANNOTATIONS

Cannot ask questions as to law: State v. Bauer, 189 Minn. 280, 249 N.W. 40 (1933).

Affirmed by State v. Evans, 352 N.W.2d 824 (Minn. App. 1984).

See also State v. Manley, 54 N.J. 259, 255 A.2d 193 (ICJ., June 27, 1969) lists many types of questions considered improper.