Voir Dire: The First Brick in Your Trial Foundation

Vol. 16 No. 6

By

Major Jeremy Scholtes is a Complex Litigation Attorney for the U.S. Army Judge Advocate General’s Corps (U.S. Army JAGC) at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington.

Voir Dire means to speak the truth. It is the prospective juror’s opportunity to speak the truth about his or her life experiences, biases, opinions, and ability and willingness to follow the law as the judge directs.  Many new trial attorneys, myself included, had little or no appreciation early in our careers for this initial opportunity to engage with prospective jurors. Many of us were taught in law school advocacy classes or litigation courses that our opening statement is our first chance to make an impression on the jury—that we can make or break our case in those opening minutes. However, voir dire is truly our first opportunity to make relationships (or burn bridges) with those men and women who will sit in judgment of the defendant or accused throughout trial. Voir dire is the critical beginning stage of trial because we get our chance to seat the best jurors for our cases who will then hear our well-prepared opening statements. It is the first brick in the foundation of a successful trial.

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