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LIMITS ON VOIR DIRE - MN Bench Book - Trial Procedures & Practices for Judges
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LIMITS ON VOIR DIRE

From MN Bench Book - Trial Procedures & Practices for Judges

Scope of Voir Dire

The scope of voir dire includes any examination into prospective jurors’ “relationship to the parties and any bias they may entertain concerning the subject matter of the action.”[1]

Attorneys can obtain information from potential jurors during the voir dire process. They can not give information about themselves, the case or the law or any other information to the potential jurors.

While attorneys are entitled to know the exact address of a potential juror, most judges currently only allow attonreys to obtain the city and neighborhood of a potential juror.

Jurors may not be forced to commit in advance to a particular verdict.[2]

“Jurors are not to undergo a course in the instruction on the law.”[3]

Judges should not apply time limits on voir dire.[4]

Limits on Questions to Jurors

Voir dire questions must be reasonable. Therefore, questions must not be repetitious, irrelevant, and otherwise improper.[5]

Lawyers may not use hypotheticals for the purpose of having jurors tip their hand in advance on what their prospective verdict will be.[6]

Lawyers cannot ask jurors “if you were defendant, would you want yourself on the jury” because it asks the juror to “identify with one side.”[7]

  1. State v. Bauer, 249 N.W. 40 (Minn. 1933). See also State v. Mulroy, 189 N.W. 441 (1922).
  2. See Bauer, 249 N.W. at 40.
  3. Id.
  4. See State v. Evans, 352 N.W.2d 824 (Minn. Ct. App. 1984) (a one-hour cap on voir dire is a per se reversible error jury violation).
  5. See Minn. R. Crim. P. 26.02, subd. d(1); State v. Owens, 373 N.W.2d 313 (Minn. 1985).
  6. See Propriety in Effect of Asking Prospective Jurors Hypothetical Questions on Voir Dire as to How They Would Decide the Case, 99 A.L.R.2d 7 (1965).
  7. See State v. Backus, 358 N.W.2d 93 (Minn. Ct. App. 1984).