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Voir Dire: Sample Voir Dire

Voir Dire Transcripts

Another way to learn how to conduct a voir dire is to read a transcript of an actual voir dire proceeding.  This will help a new attorney learn how to wade through the initial stage of voir dire before catching a rhythm and conversing naturally with the potential jurors.

Here is a voir dire transcripts of a case.  Following is a transcript of a fictional personal injury suit along with trial notes and same questionnaire answers.

Fictional Voir Dire with Trial Notes

Information Learned from Jury Questionnaire:

Venireman 1:

Full Name:      Henry Adams                         M : __X__   F : ______

Age:  22

Area where currently live: downtown Columbia

            House: ____   Apt : __X___            Own : _____ Rent : ___X___

Highest Level of Education: currently in 4 year program at Mizzou for business

Taken any course in law: No

Employer/Occupation: Student; part time stocker at Schnucks

Spouse Employer/Occupation: n/a

Military Service: n/a

Know anyone on jury panel: No

Ever served as jury member: No

            Kind of case:

            Foreperson:

            Reach Verdict:

            Positive/Negative Experience:

 

Venireman 2:

Full Name:      George Carlin                         M : __X__   F : ______

Age: 65

Area where currently live: Ashland

            House: __X__   Apt : _____            Own : __X___ Rent : ______

Highest Level of Education: College degree in Ag

Taken any course in law: Political Science

Employer/Occupation: Retired

Spouse Employer/Occupation: Retired

Military Service: No

Know anyone on jury panel: No

Ever served as jury member: No

            Kind of case:

            Foreperson:

            Reach Verdict:

            Positive/Negative Experience:

 

Venireman 3:

Full Name:      Susie Jones                             M : ____   F : __X____

Age: 45

Area where currently live: Columbia

            House: __X__   Apt : _____            Own : __X___ Rent : ______

Highest Level of Education: Associate degree

Taken any course in law: No

Employer/Occupation: Stay at home mom

Spouse Employer/Occupation: Shelter Insurance; insurance agent

Military Service: No

Know anyone on jury panel: No

Ever served as jury member: Yes

            Kind of case: Criminal

            Foreperson: No

            Reach Verdict: Yes

            Positive/Negative Experience: Positive

 

Venireman 4:

Full Name:      Brad Jones                             M : __X__   F : ______

Age: 32

Area where currently live: Rocheport

            House: ____   Apt : __X___            Own : _____ Rent : __X____

Highest Level of Education: high school

Taken any course in law: no

Employer/Occupation: Mechanic at Midwest Autoworx

Spouse Employer/Occupation: n/a

Military Service: no

Know anyone on jury panel: no

Ever served as jury member: no

            Kind of case:

            Foreperson:

            Reach Verdict:

            Positive/Negative Experience:

 

Venireman 5:

Full Name:      Victoria Rodgers                    M : ____   F : ___X___

Age: 27

Area where currently live: Columbia

            House: __X__   Apt : _____            Own : ___X__ Rent : ______

Highest Level of Education: Doctorate

Taken any course in law: No

Employer/Occupation: Pharmacist

Spouse Employer/Occupation: MFA

Military Service: no

Know anyone on jury panel: no

Ever served as jury member: no

            Kind of case:

            Foreperson:

            Reach Verdict:

            Positive/Negative Experience:

 

Venireman 6:

Full Name:      Ryan Sargent             M : __X__   F : ______

Age: 24

Area where currently live: Columbia

            House: ____   Apt : ___X__            Own : _____ Rent : ___X___

Highest Level of Education: Degree in Business

Taken any course in law: No

Employer/Occupation: Garbage Man

Spouse Employer/Occupation: law student

Military Service: No

Know anyone on jury panel: No

Ever served as jury member: No

            Kind of case:

            Foreperson:

            Reach Verdict:

            Positive/Negative Experience:

 

[Trial Note: Areas of interest from the questionnaire:

-       Venireman 2: retired; what was his former job?

-       Venireman 3: served on a jury;

-       Venireman 3 & 4: same last name; confirm they don’t know each other

-       Venireman 6: spouse is law student]

 

Voir Dire Transcript for Liebeck v. McDonalds

[Played out as if occurred in Boone County and in State court]

-- This is the voir dire of the first 6 Veniremen beginning after the preliminary instructions given by the Judge -- 

Honorable Judge: You know who the parties are in the case and what types of claims have been brought.  Based on this information, would you raise you hand if you have such strong feels about the case, the parties, what the claims are that you could not be fair and impartial?

[Pause]

J: There are no hands? The record should reflect that no on has raised their hand. Ok, looking at the list of lawyers, parties, witnesses, and law firms that are involved in this case, is anyone familiar with any of them?

J: Let the record reflect that everyone has raised his or her hand. Raise your hand if the only entity on the list you know is McDonalds Restaurants.

J: Let the record reflect that everyone has raised his or her hand.  Just to be clear, raise your hand if you are familiar with any entity on this list other than McDonalds Restaurants.

J: Let the record reflect that no one has raised his or her hand.

J: We will now have the lawyers introduce themselves and proceed with the questioning. Mrs. Peterson, you may start.

Attorney for Plaintiffs: Thank you, your honor.  Ladies and Gentlemen of the venire, my name is Kaci Peterson and I am proud to stand here with Ms. Liebeck and have twelve of you decide this very important case. In this part of the trial, we need to find out your feelings, impressions or opinions about the issues in this case. I want you to know that there are no right or wrong answers. We will be honest with you and we ask that you be as honest as you can with us.  Please raise your hand if you or your spouse has ever worked for McDonalds Restaurant [Trial Note: looking for potential bias]. Mr. Sargent?

Prospective Juror: Yes my wife worked for McDonalds.

A: How long ago did she work for McDonalds?

PJ: Oh it was before I met her.  So at least 5 years ago, and I think more than that.  Maybe 7.

A: Would this in any way affect your ability to be fair to both sides in this case?

PJ: Oh no, she doesn’t talk about it much.  She had a bad experience there I think so its not a job she remembers upon fondly. [Trial Note: this might be good for the Plaintiff later]

A: I see here that your wife is a law student, correct?

PJ: Yes

A: What year is she in law school?

PJ: She is a 3L.

A: What will she be doing next year?

PJ: Working at a law firm.

A: In what field?

PJ: Litigation.

A: Do you know the specific field?

PJ: Personal injury. I don’t know. I think.

A: Ok. Has she talked with you about this case?
PJ: No.

A: Does she talk about persona injury cases a lot?

PJ: No. [Trial Note: at this point, it does not seem to be a harm that the potential juror’s wife is a law student.]

A: Has anyone else worked for or their spouse worked for McDonald’s Restaurant? [No hands].  Mr. Carlin, what is your general impression about the defendant?

PJ: Sometimes I stop and get coffee from McDonald’s in the morning but I hardly eat there. I’m not particular but they get my order wrong a lot so I don’t eat there much.

A: I see that you are retired Mr. Carlin.  What did you do for a living before you retired?

PJ: I was a farmer.  I still raise cattle, just not as many as before.

A: So you live on a farm?

PJ: Yes.

A: So let’s go back, Mr. Carlin, do you have any opinions, positive or negative, about the defendant?

PJ: Well it’s a big company so it must be doing something right. I have always been treated well there.  They just sometimes get my order wrong.

A: Does that frustrate you?

PJ: Well yea.  I end up back at the house with the wrong food or with onions on my sandwich.  And I hate onions.

A: Does anyone else share Mr. Carlin’s frustration? Mr. Jones?

PJ: I love eating at McDonalds but it is annoying when the order is wrong.  But they always fix it for me.

A: But it annoys you that they wasted your time by getting the order wrong in the first place?

Opposing Counsel: Objection. Argumentative.

Judge: Sustained.

Attorney for Plaintiffs: Mr. Jones, how often would you say you eat at McDonalds Restaurants?

PJ: At least once a week. Sometimes more depending on what I have at home to eat. [Trial Note: this could be potentially bad for the Plaintiff if the potential juror has a strong tie to the defendant]

A: And you enjoy eating there?

PJ: I guess.  I eat a lot of fast food so I just work it in to the rotation.

A: Mr. Jones, has any of the fast food restaurants that you like to eat at ever caused you physical pain?

PJ: What do you mean?

A: Well, for instance, have you ever burnt yourself on food or a drink that was given to you? [Trial Note: This is an appropriate use of a hypothetical to introduce critical facts about the case and to look for any bias]

PJ: Oh yes I burn my tongue on hot chocolate all the time.  It is always so hot when they give it to me.  And my tongue stays burnt for like two days.

A: And if you had received terrible burns from the hot chocolate, would you be willing to sue the fast food place?

Opposing Counsel: Objection.  Calls for the venireman to make a commitment.

Judge: Sustained.

[Trial Note: I want to ask this question because I want to make sure the potential juror will be sympathetic to the Plaintiff since she received third degree burns from a coffee spill. So I need to get around the commitment issue.  I can do that by rephrasing to look more at a bias problem.]

A: If someone you knew has received severe burns from the hot chocolate, how would you feel about that person bringing a lawsuit?

Opposing Counsel: Same Objection.

Attorney for Plaintiff: Your honor, this question does not ask for the potential juror to commit but rather searches for any bias that he may have against a personal injury victim bringing suit against the person who injured her.

Judge: Overruled.

Attorney for Plaintiff: Go ahead Mr. Jones.

PJ: It might be a little silly. I guess it just depends on the situation. If she was really hurt and it wasn’t her fault then I guess it make sense to bring the lawsuit. [Trial Note: worry about comparative fault]

A: Does anyone else has an opinion about this? Ms. Rodgers?

PJ: I think it is irresponsible to bring a lawsuit like that.  I mean, you simply have to wait for the hot chocolate to cool off before drinking it.  Then you don’t get burned. [Trial Note: This is a red flag and needs to be probed much more deeply]

A: Thank you for your honesty Ms. Rodgers. However, what if the hot chocolate spilt on you?

PJ: I guess it would depend on why it spilt.

A: Let’s say it spilt because it was filled too full and hard to handle.

PJ: I still think it is your problem for ordering the hot drink and then not being careful enough not to burn yourself.

[Trial Note: At this point, I would mark Ms. Rodgers as a challenger for cause if I can get it and if not as one of my preemptory challenges.  It is a shame because Ms. Rodgers would have had independent medical knowledge and could have talked about the burns suffered by my client. There is no need to continue asking her questions.]

A: Thank you Ms. Rodgers. Mr. Adams, what do you think about this situation?

PJ: Well I’m not sure.  I don’t want to fault this person when I don’t know the situation. Or how badly they were hurt.

A: Mr. Adams you work at Schnucks, correct?

PJ: Yes. I am a stocker.

A: And you are studying business?

PJ: Yes that is correct.

A: What do you want to do after you graduate from school?
PJ: I would like to someday own my own business.  But that is still a ways off.

A:  Mr. Adams, would you resent someone bringing a personal injury suit against your business?

PJ: It would depend I guess on whether it was my fault or my company’s fault.

A: Thank you Mr. Adams. Has anyone heard about this case in the news? Mr. Sargent?

PJ: I think I read about it in a newspaper or online at one point.  But it was a short article and didn’t have a lot of information.

A: Did you form an opinion about this case at that time?

PJ: I thought it was just a quick get rich scheme by suing a big company with deep pockets.  However, after hearing you talk a little about the case, I’m not so sure.

A:  Thank you for your honesty Mr. Adams. Will you be able to keep an open mind until the end of trial after all the facts have been presented?
PJ: Yes.  I think this is very interesting.

A: Ms. Jones, it says here that you served on a jury before. Is that correct?

PJ: Yes I did.

A: Was it a criminal trial or a civil trial?
PJ: A criminal trial.

A: What was your favorite part about being on the jury?

PJ: I liked hearing all of the information about the case.  It was an attempted murder case and so it was really interesting listening to everyone talk.

A: And you reached a verdict?

PJ: Yes we did, in the end.  I mean, it was sad and all, but it’s not ok to shoot someone.

A: So is it your opinion that people need to take responsibility for their actions?

PJ: Oh yes. I mean, if you do something bad then you have to get in trouble or you will never learn. That’s how I raised my children.  It’s a very effective method.

A: Now Ms. Jones, do you know Mr. Jones?

PJ: No. We just have the same last name it sounds like.  But Jones is a very common last night.

[Trial Note: Ms. Jones is shaping up to be a very good juror person for the Plaintiff.  I want to get away from her so that the Defense does not pounce on her and try to get her struck for cause or use their preemptory on her.]

A: Mr. Carlin, lets come back to you. How do you feel about companies who are sued by someone who was injured at the company’s business when the company could have prevented the injury?

PJ: I think the company should have to help out the injured person. 

A: Why do you feel that way?
PJ: Because it seems like it was the company’s fault.  They should take responsibility.  Its like what you were talking about earlier with taking responsibility for your actions.

A: And what if the company was only partly to blame?

PJ: They should still have to help out.  I mean, its not like they couldn’t afford it. But the injured person shouldn’t get a free ride.  If it was her fault then that is her problem.

A: Thank you Mr. Carlin. What are you feelings on people who don’t like going to the hospital?

Opposing Counsel: Objection. Relevance?

Judge: Counselor where are you going with this?

Attorney for Plaintiff: I’m not sure your Honor.  I will skip it.

A: Mr. Carlin, how do you feel about people get hurt because of an accident?

PJ: I feel bad for them I guess.

A: And what if the person got hurt because someone created a dangerous situation that led to the injury resulting from the accident being worse.

PJ: Then that someone should be in trouble.

A: Mr. Adams, how do you feel about this?

PJ: Well if it were truly an accident, then I’m not sure it matters whether there was a dangerous situation or not.

A: Do you think no one should get in trouble for making an accident worse?

Opposing Counsel: Objection. Calls for a commitment.

Judge: Sustained.

Attorney for Plaintiff: How do you feel about a person not getting in trouble for making an injury resulting from an accident worse?
PJ: Well I’m not sure. It seems like the person should get in trouble but I’m not sure it makes sense that they should.

A: Would you be able to find that the person should get in trouble if the Judge tells you that they should?
PJ: I would listen to the Judge. He knows the law.

A: Thank you Mr. Adams.  Mr. Jones, how do you feel about someone who has caused an accident by doing something but doesn’t change his behavior?

PJ: I’m not sure I understand.

A: Let’s say that a man digs a whole in his yard that is pretty deep.  However, people keep falling into the whole and hurting themselves. How does that make you feel?

Opposing Counsel: Objection.  Hypothetical question.

Attorney for Plaintiff: Your Honor, this hypothetical has nothing to do with the facts of this case or with what the law might be.  However it does probe into the potential jurors feels about punitive damages for continued bad behavior.

Judge: Overruled.

A: Go ahead Mr. Jones.

PJ: I think that is wrong.  The man should be in trouble.  He knew people were getting hurt but he didn’t do anything about it.

A: Thank you Mr. Jones.

A: Has anyone ever received third degree burns? Mr. Jones?

PJ: I am a mechanic so I work around cars a lot.  When I first started I used to burn myself quite a bit.  One time though I burned myself really bad and had to go to the hospital.  I had to get a lot of shots and have it wrapped.  The burn didn’t heal completely for like a month.

A: Thank you Mr. Jones.

[Trial Notes: At this point, each juror has spoken multiple times and I have a decent sense about the juror.  It would be prudent at this point to move on to the next section of jurors and focus attention on them.]

Conclusion:

Mr. Jones, Ms. Jones, and Mr. Carlin all sound like fairly good jurors for the Plaintiff.

Ms. Rodgers is not a good juror for the Plaintiff.

Mr. Adams is a bit of a wild card.  Since he wants to be a business owner someday, he may harbor bias against the Plaintiff for bringing what might be a frivolous suit.

Mr. Sargent is also a bit of a wild card.  Since his spouse is a law student, he is likely exposed to the law more than the average person.  It is likely that some of her perception of the law has rubbed off on him and he might repeat it in the jury room. Also, he has heard about the case before hand and formed an opinion about the case that was harmful to the Plaintiff.