In my opinion the most important aspect of a criminal jury trial is voir dire. A case can literally be won or lost during this process. Think about it. Vior dire is the part of the trial where a jury is selected. In any criminal case there will always be good jurors you want to decide the facts of the case, and there will always be bad jurors you don’t want anywhere near the case. Whether you’re a prosecutor or a defense attorney it doesn’t matter. Selecting one bad juror can mean the difference between a favorable outcome and not so good one.
So what makes vior dire so difficult. Well there are lots of things going on. Basically during this process all the parties of the case, the Judge, the Prosecutor, and the Defense Attorney are asking a pool of jurors questions about facts and issues in the case. Due to the amount of information that is being given, and the speed of this process it is important to stay organized and take good notes. That way when it comes down to actually selecting a juror, you have an idea which ones you want and which ones you don’t want.
For me I learn better visually. So I have developed a pretty simple system which allows me to keep track of all the jurors, take notes on what they say, and then eliminate them once they have been removed from the pool. To do this get the following materials: 1 legal size piece of paper, a book of 1×2 inch sticky pads, 2 different colored pens.
What I do is put sticky pads down on the legal sheet in the way the jury is seated. So if its a misdemeanor case typically there will be 20 jurors in the pool. So put down 20 sticky pads. Then number each sticky pad to correlate with the individual juror number. I also write down at the top of the sticky pad whether the juror is a male, or female, and there age. That way when I’m speaking with them or when they are talking I wont confuse or misidentify anyone.
Once you have that set up then I proceed to take abbreviated notes for each comment made. I also will put a mark at the bottom of each sticky pad every time the juror speaks. That way I know who has spoken and who hasn’t. Throughout this process I’m constantly evaluating what the jurors are saying and I will make 3 marks depending on whether I like them or not. I will put a cross if I don’t like them next to their number. If I’m undecided or I think they will be neutral then I will put a horizontal line. If I like them then I will put a check mark.