For Schools

Grades 7-9: Due Process Freedoms
Voir Dire Simulation

Simulation Objectives

  1. Develop skills in deductive reasoning.
  2. Develop rationale on psychological factors which might affect the outcome.
  3. Organize thoughts in logical sequential order.
  4. Analyze and evaluate information.
  5. Compare and contrast actual experience with perceived purpose.

Simulation Directions
Student lawyers in playing the voir dire simulation will role play real lawyers. One or more will be assigned to the prosecution and defense. The student lawyers should make a list of all the favorable features sought in the ideal juror on one side of a sheet of paper and all the unfavorable features on the other side. Prioritize these features. An adequate inventory should include ten to fifteen features on each side. After the catalog is complete, study it carefully. This exercise will help the student to think clearly about what kind of a jury is desired.

There are thirty potential jurors from which to choose a six-or twelve-person jury. You may impanel a jury of six or twelve, depending on the number of students involved. Give students a number and a character role to play. Call the first six or twelve names and have the students sit in a mock jury box area.

They will be questioned first by the prosecutor and then by defense counsel. There are thirty possible questions that may be asked. Some might be asked by attorneys on either side, but some are designed to ferret out prejudices of particular interest to the prosecution or defense counsel.

Each side has four peremptory challenges and unlimited challenges for cause. You may either accept, reject for peremptory challenge, or challenge for cause. The judge, who may be a real judge, a lawyer, or another community resource person, will rule on cause challenges.

After a jury has been impaneled, ask students to analyze the process based on the objective of securing an impartial jury of one's peers. Ask students if they feel that such factors as career, sex, political beliefs, socio-economic status, nationality, and race influenced who was selected for the case.

Ask real attorneys to debrief the exercise by comparing the selections they would have made with those the student attorneys actually made.

Julie Van Camp is an educator now living in Lopez Island, Washington.

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