How is Your Jury Determined? Understanding the Voir Dire Process

Categories: criminal defense


Jury selection is one of the least understood, but very important aspects of the trial process. At the end of the trial, after all of the work of your lawyers is done, your fate rests in the hand of those jury members. Over the years, experts have come to specialize in the process of jury selection, realizing it can have an immense impact on the ultimate outcome.

The Voir Dire Process

The jury selection process (known as Voir Dire) can vary from state to state and, to some extent, from courtroom to courtroom. Judges may have preferences about how the process is conducted, but there are some basic steps that must occur in voir dire.

The First Step

Everyone has received the jury summons in the mail at one point or another. This is the initial step in the selection process, as a large pool of potential jurors is randomly selected to show up in a judge’s courtroom. In Wisconsin, an initial number of potential jurors will be brought into the courtroom and the judge will ask them a series of basic questions, including:

  • Whether they have a serious reason that prevents them from completing jury duty
  • Whether they know any of the parties in the case
  • Whether they have a financial interest in any of the parties in the case
  • If they have a bias or prejudice that prevents them from being impartial jurors.

Based on these questions, certain jurors may be dismissed. As they are dismissed, other potential jurors will replace them until the court is satisfied that it has the sufficient number of jurors for the attorneys to consider.  

The Second Step

After the court has completed its questioning, the attorneys will have the opportunity to ask questions of the potential jurors. These questions are typically related to the facts of the case. For example, if one party is a divorced parent, her attorneys may want more divorcees who can sympathize with her.

After the attorneys have completed their questioning, they will be given an opportunity to strike three potential jurors that they do not want on the jury. These strikes, known as “peremptory challenges” cannot be used to categorically remove a certain group of people, such as women, or African-Americans, but they can be used to dismiss jurors that you think may disagree with your side.

Some jurors may be excused for a cause that did not show up during the questioning by the judge. It is after that process that the peremptory challenges will be made.

Once the peremptory challenges are completed, the court will be left with a complete jury and possible alternates. These are the individuals who will determine the outcome of your case.

The Science of Voir Dire

In recent years, experts in psychology and human behavior and other fields have begun to specialize in voir dire.  They use demographics and statistics about jurors, as well as analysis of facial expressions, body language, and even voice to assist attorneys in selecting jurors.

While some believe the process works, many are unconvinced that the help of experts makes any significant difference.

Disclaimer: This Article Is Not Legal Advice.
Never rely on an article for legal advice as the law frequently changes, information may not be accurate, there may be exceptions to a rule, and reliance may be detrimental. Always consult one of our experienced attorneys for competent, current, and accurate legal advice.

As Wisconsin Civil Litigators, We Work To Select The Best Jurors For Your Case

Whether you believe in the use of experts and statistics to select a jury or not, much of the art of the voir dire process comes from the questions the attorneys choose to ask and how they evaluate the responses.

At Crooks, Low & Connell, P.C, our civil litigation attorneys know the questions that will shed light on juror biases and sympathies in order to assist in your case. For more information, or to schedule a consultation, contact our offices online or at (715) 842-2291.