While the attorneys’ opening and closing statements are extremely important parts of a jury trial, the process of voir dire gives the attorney the ability to best sift out a juror’s biases and beliefs. Originating from the French oath meaning “tell the truth” or “give a true verdict,” the ultimate goal of jury selection is to choose a fair and unbiased jury who will be impartial when rendering a verdict.
Understanding the Voir Dire Process
The first phase of a jury trial is jury selection. This is the process by which the parties select a jury for the case. In criminal cases, both the state and the defendant have the right to an individual examination of each potential juror prior to challenging whether or not the person should be on the jury. The individual examination happens after the usual voir dire questions have been put by the court.
An attorney may ask questions of the individual juror on any matter or thing that could show indication of leaning, bias or inclination regarding the subject matter of the case. Just like a jury deliberation is a process of truth finding, so is jury selection.
Simply put, the voir dire process is focused on screening and striking jurors for their uncovered biases. These biases are not apparent and voluntarily disclosed, so it is the job of the attorney to have them come to light during voir dire.
This is critical to both sides – but particularly a defendant accused of a crime – because any inherent bias can sway not just a juror’s decision, but the jury’s ultimate verdict. And, unfortunately, not all attorneys are skilled at the process of voir dire. Because it is the defendant’s life and liberty that is essentially at stake, it is critical to hire a skilled criminal defense attorney who approaches jury selection in a strategic way.
Challenges to Jurors
An attorney may strike a juror by using a peremptory challenge and/or a challenge for cause.
A peremptory challenge allows the questioning attorney to strike – or excuse – a juror without a stated reason. The number of peremptory challenges available to an attorney is limited under the law. In Georgia, defendants accused of a felony have nine peremptory challenges – as does the state. If the state intends to seek the death penalty, the number of peremptory challenges increases to 15.
A challenge for cause, on the other hand, requires the lawyer to state a particular reason as to why the striking of the potential juror is requested and what deems the potential juror unable to be fair or unbiased. While the attorney has the right to request the strike, it is the presiding judge who determines whether or not the person will be dismissed from the jury.
Legal Help in Georgia
If you or someone you care about has been charged with a criminal offense in Georgia, contact the experienced criminal defense attorneys at Moffitt Law, LLC today. Our experienced lawyers will defend your rights under the law and vigorously advocate on your behalf. Do not leave your liberty to chance; contact us today for your initial, free, case evaluation.
Tyler Moffitt is a Family Law and Criminal Defense Attorney who practices Carrollton, LaGrange, and Columbus, GA. He graduated from John Marshall Law School, and has been practicing for several years now. Tyler Moffitt takes great honor in defending the accused. Learn more about his experience by clicking here.