Sample questions in the rules. Standards 3.25 (civil) and 4.30 (criminal) of the Standards of Judicial Administration (part of the California Rules of Court) spell out areas of inquiry that the trial judge should include in examination of prospective jurors in state civil and criminal cases. They include special questions for personal injury and wrongful death cases.
Weak or controversial points in your case. For example, you may want to ask about self-defense, contributory negligence, and punitive damages if they are relevant to your case. These subjects should be reviewed early with the jury.
Sensitive areas of possible prejudice. Don’t shy away from sensitive topics. You should ask the jury questions relating to, for example, race, prior criminal record, repulsive facts, or other potentially sensitive issues that will come up in the case.
Expert issues. Ask the jurors about the use of experts in general and their use at trial.
Professions that are loved or hated. If you expect there will be testimony by members of a profession that’s viewed favorably or unfavorably by many people, e.g., police officer, attorney, surgeon, stockbroker, ask the jurors about their views on the profession.
Names at issue. Name the organizations and people whose credibility or liability may be at issue. Ask jurors about their familiarity with and thoughts about those organizations and persons.
Keep in mind that you definitely don’t want to anger the jury pool by boring or annoying them. You should ask questions of the entire panel, and then zero in on particular potential jurors with follow-up questions. Don’t embarrass anyone or pick on any particular person.
Once you’ve outlined your questions, organize them and arrange them in order of importance. You’ll want to ask some questions of every juror and repeat other questions many times with different jurors.
Get more of this expert guidance on examination of jurors in CEB’s Effective Direct and Cross-Examination, chap 10. And check out CEB’s program Tips to Implement in Your Next Set of Jury Voir Dire Questions, available On Demand.
Other CEBblog™ posts on voir dire:
- What You Can’t Ask a Juror During Voir Dire
- 7 Grounds for Objecting During Voir Dire
- Voir Dire: Your First Chance to Make a Good Impression
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