- Learning Objectives: Students will be able to recall the definition and purpose of the voir dire process as well as understand some of the critiques/controversies of using such a process to select jurors.
- Preparation: On 3x5 index cards write out 12 juror cards including the age, race, gender and occupation of each potential juror, selecting characteristics that will provoke discussion or disagreement.
37 year old white male construction worker
29 year old African American female stay at home mom
30 year old Persian male journalist
50 year old white female sociologist
34 year old white male security officer
40 year old Hispanic female city assemblywoman
70 year old white male retired army general
60 year old Chinese male small business owner
35 year old white female real estate agent
24 year old white male college student
19 year old Hispanic male mechanic
44 year old African American female child advocate
Example of card (scanned)
- Exercise: As you pass out the cards, explain how the exercise will run.
Ex: “If you receive a card you will take on the persona on that card and will be a potential juror for the upcoming trial. The case involves a robbery and assault at a 7-11. The defendant is a 30 year old, African American male.”
Before you begin, elicit:
What do we call this pool of potential jurors?
What is this process of selecting jurors called?
What is the purpose of this process?
To eliminate biased jurors.
There are two ways to excuse potential jurors. What are they?
For cause and peremptory challenge.
Can you explain the difference between the two?
When using a peremptory challenge you do not have to provide a justification, with a dismissal cause you must.
Explain to students that both the defense and prosecution get 3 dismissals for cause and 3 peremptory challenges. They must decide who they would like to dismiss and explain which method they chose to use. Who would you dismiss and why?
Let students volunteer opinions initially and then run through each potential juror if necessary.
- Follow-up discussion questions (to check for understanding):
- What did this exercise illustrate about the voir dire process?
- Can anyone really ever be unbiased? Impartial?
- What are some of the dangers of the voir dire process, specifically of using peremptory challenges?
- Should we change this process?
- How do you feel about professional jurors?
- How do you feel about jury consultants?