Articles Posted in Voir Dire

jury boxIn criminal defense cases, every part of the process is a potentially key piece needed to contribute to a successful outcome. Additionally, details matter. That fact was on display when an accused convenience store robber was granted a new trial because the trial judge did not ask a voir dire question that the defense requested. The question could have potentially exposed a specific cause for the disqualification of a potential juror, so it should have been asked, according to the Court of Special Appeals ruling. The importance of every step and every detail is why it pays to have experienced Maryland criminal defense counsel on your side the entire way.

The case arose from the armed robbery of a 7-Eleven store in Baltimore County. The robber shot the store employee, but the injury wasn’t lethal. Eventually, the police arrested the defendant, and the state charged him with multiple robbery, assault, and weapons charges.

Whenever an accused person stands trial, especially in a serious felony case like the one confronting the defendant, it is extremely important to ensure that you are able to get the best jury possible. One of the ways for doing this is called voir dire. Voir dire is a French phrase that translates to “to see to speak,” and it is the part of the pre-trial process when the judge and the attorneys (or litigants) can ask questions of potential jurors. Using the voir dire process effectively can help you weed out jurors who might be particularly difficult to persuade to your side.

The JuryIn a criminal case, it might be easy to assume that the outcome of the case will be a result of what takes place during the trial. The reality of criminal trials is more complicated than that. A favorable or unfavorable outcome often has a lot to do with who is on the jury, rather than just which evidence is placed before those jurors. The careful execution of questioning jurors and excluding those who might make for poor fits is a vital part of your defense. In the case of one man facing attempted murder charges, an error by a judge in not allowing the defense to ask potential jurors a particular question resulted in a reversal of his conviction by the Court of Special Appeals.

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hammer-to-fall-1223606 (1)Voir dire, the process by which prospective jurors are questioned and examined to determine whether grounds for disqualification exist, is a significant part of any jury trial. Most states, like Maryland, have rules that govern this phase of a criminal trial in order to ensure that a fair and impartial jury is ultimately impaneled in accordance with the Sixth Amendment of the United States Constitution. When a court finds error during this segment of a criminal prosecution, any ultimate conviction may be overturned. For this reason alone, if you have been arrested or charged with a crime, it is vitally important to protect your legal rights as vigorously as possible. An experienced Maryland criminal defense attorney could evaluate your case with an eye to preparing the best possible defense under the circumstances.

In a recent criminal case, the defendant was charged with illegal possession of a regulated firearm and later convicted after a jury trial. The defendant appealed the conviction, raising several arguments, including whether the trial court erred in refusing to ask, during voir dire, the “police witness” questions. In this case, the defendant’s counsel submitted certain voir dire questions to be asked of the prospective jurors. Included among these items were two questions relating to police officer testimony. It is important to take note that most of the evidence presented in this case against the defendant was comprised of police officer testimony.

Essentially, counsel requested that the judge ask the prospective jurors whether they would be more or less likely to believe a police officer or deputy solely because he is an officer or deputy, and whether they would be more likely to believe the testimony of a police officer or deputy as opposed to the accused. The trial court failed to ask these two questions, and at the conclusion of the questions for the whole jury pool, the judge asked defense counsel and the prosecution if they had any issues to address. Defense counsel responded “no.” Later, during additional questioning of the remaining potential jurors (prior to the selection of a panel), the defendant’s counsel requested that the police witness questions be asked. The trial court denied the request.

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hammer-to-fall-1223606In any criminal trial, the makeup of the jury is a critical component of a fair proceeding. Voir dire is the process by which trial attorneys have an opportunity to select or reject potential jurors. There are many rules associated with this process, the outcome of which can have a dramatic impact on the jury’s approach to a case. Maryland courts have described the sole purpose of voir dire as an attempt to ensure a fair and impartial jury by examining whether there is a specific cause for disqualification. The law provides some guidance in this area and should be consulted when selecting jurors for a case. If you have been arrested or charged with a crime, it is extremely important to reach out to an experienced Maryland criminal defense attorney, someone with a knowledge of the laws affecting such cases.

When the jury selection process begins, counsel for each side typically sets forth certain questions to be asked of each potential juror for the purpose of eliciting responses that would reveal grounds for disqualification. In Maryland, courts have identified two broad areas of inquiry that could expose a ground for such disqualification:  1) questions to determine whether the prospective juror meets the minimum statutory qualifications for jury service, and 2) questions aimed at revealing the potential juror’s state of mind with respect to the subject matter of the trial or any other matter likely to have undue influence over him or her.

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