By LaMonique Giddens, UNF
SANFORD, Fla. - Jury selection in the George Zimmerman trial went into its second day on Tuesday. This process is commonly known as "voir dire" in the legal community. Voir dire, literally translated, means "to speak the truth" and is considered by those in the legal profession to be one of the most important parts of a trial.
Thirty potential jurors were dismissed from those that were summoned on Tuesday, according to Michelle Kennedy, Public Information Officer for the 18th Judicial Circuit.
Individual prepublicity voir dire will be conducted until they get a pool of 30 people not stricken for cause. Then they will begin the traditional voir dire with those 30.
The 100 individuals summoned for Wednesday are on call and do not have to report to court tomorrow.
This is the only part of a trial where the attorneys get to interact one on one with the people who will decide the fate of their case. Jury selection is really a process of rejection or "weeding out." It is about both sides eliminating potential jurors who may hurt their case and ending up with jurors who fall somewhere in the middle and can maintain a sense of impartiality. In the Zimmerman trial, a pool of 500 people is being narrowed down 100 at a time. At the end of the voir dire process, there will be 6 jurors and 4 alternates.
In narrowing down the jury pool, any juror, and an unlimited amount of jurors can be rejected for cause, meaning they can be rejected for any reason by the judge and the judge only. Cause could be anything from a juror not being able to serve because they have no one to take care of their children, to something provocative or controversial that the juror wore to court, or because of too much exposure to information regarding the trial and the judge feels they have too much bias one way or the other.
The prosecution and the defense also get 10 jurors each that they can reject for almost any reason. These are called peremptory challenges. There is, however, an exception to this rule: Neither side can use a peremptory challenge to reject a juror solely because of race. If one side believes that the other side has rejected a juror just based on race, then they can challenge the peremptory challenge with the judge. This is called a Batson challenge. In the case of a Batson challenge, the judge makes the final ruling on whether the juror stays or not.
The process of jury selection is an art form and every attorney has his or her own method of determining who they want or who they don't. Some rely solely on experience and instinct, and some use jury selection experts and various other methods to help them. There are as many ways for an attorney to pick jurors as there are attorneys and judges.
It all starts with the pretrial questions. These questions are in the form of questionnaires that have to be filled out by the potential jurors. There are generally three different kinds:
-The first kind is the standard form that is put together by the court. The attorneys have no part in putting together this questionnaire. The purpose of the standard form is to make sure that potential jurors have the basic qualifications -- such as proficiency in the English language --needed to be a juror.
-The second kind of questionnaire is made up by an attorney for a particular kind of case. The reason this is done is because the kinds of questions that an attorney would ask in a second-degree murder trial such as the Zimmerman Trial would probably be different than in a slip and fall case.
-The third kind of questionnaire is also created by an attorney it is designed for a specific case. For example, in the Zimmerman Trial, the questions are currently geared toward a prospective juror's exposure to pretrial publicity. Both sides want to know how any information the jurors have heard or seen about Trayvon Martin or George Zimmerman may have affected the prospective juror's ability to stay unbiased during the trial. They are asking questions like "How often do you watch the news?" and "What do you know about the Zimmerman case?" These questions speak to these potential jurors' ability to be "fair and impartial" and ultimately that is what both sides are looking for.
LaMonique Giddens is a senior and a double major in Political Science and Psychology at University of North Florida. She will be attending law school in the fall of 2014 and pursuing her master's degree in Psychology in 2014. She is interested becoming a trial attorney and interested in the fields of jury selection and trial advocacy.