Part of Lesson Plan: Prepare For Trial
Activity Overview / Details
The teacher should first ask student students to take notes. Next, the teacher should explain that when people respond to a jury summons, they gather at the court house to form a pool of potential jurors from which they are called in groups for specific criminal or civil trials. While there,potential jurors are questioned by attorneys for each side and/or the trial judge about their background, life experiences, and opinions to determine whether they can weigh the evidence fairly and objectively.
The teacher should write this information on the whiteboard or LCD projector:
- Receive a summons
- Gather at the courthouse
- Questioned by attorneys for each side about background, life experiences & opinions
- Asked if they can weigh evidence fairly & objectively
The teacher should next explain to the students that the process of asking potential jurors questions is called "voir dire" which is a French term meaning "speak the truth".
Next the teacher will explain that through voir dire, an attorney can challenge a prospective juror "for cause" if that person says or otherwise expresses a bias against the attorney's case. Each attorney can also exercise a limited number of "peremptory" challenges for which no reason is required. Those individuals who are accepted by both attorneys [or the trial judge, if the judge conducts the voir dire] are impaneled and sworn in as the jury.
The teachershould write this information on the whiteboard of LCD projector:
- Process of asking potential questions of jurors
- Includes challenges: 1. "For Cause" - potential juror says or expresses bias against case & 2. Peremptory - no reason is required
- The individuals who are accepted by both attorneys or the judge are impaneled, sworn in as a juror, and assigned a number.
Next the teacher should explain that traditionally, American attorneys have had much latitude in conducting voir dire. The power to challenge-and the discretion to use it-is very important in our adversary system of justice; each attorney works for a jury most sympathetic to their side. Like all powers, this one has been subject to misuse and even abuse. As American society has evolved, so too has voir dire.