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Bill Powers Discusses Jury Selection - North Carolina Trials

Posted by attorney F. Powers

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Bill: Hi, I'm Bill Powers and I'm joined with Will Cathcart and we're talking about jury trials or superior court trials in North Carolina. Now, picking the jury or the "voir dire" process is pretty complicated, isn't it Will?

Will: Yes.

Bill: A lot of people don't realize how jurors are selected. And each jurisdiction it's a little bit different. For example, if you have a criminal case in Rowan County, they send out notices to a bunch of people and those people show up to court on Monday and they're there all week. And you may do one jury trial and then they get put back in the pool and they may get picked for a second jury trial. And I've actually seen them picked for a third jury trial, where as in other jurisdictions, in Charlotte for example or Mecklenburg County, you're in for one day and if you get past the jury selection or the "voir dire" you're normally done within one day unless you get called to that trial. Now Will, other than the basics of getting called the jury, voter registration, things of that nature, what are some of the questions that you ask the potential jurors? And everyone's a little bit different when styistically because it's more art than it is science, is it not?

Will: It is.

Bill: Well, what are some of the sample questions? What are the things that you're looking for? Obviously, you want someone to be fair.

Will: Right. Well, you definitely want someone to be fair. The district attorneys usually will cover that. Can you be fair and impartial and use some kind of flowery language? But for the most part I want to know if they've ever met me or anyone that I work with, if they've ever been charged with a similar crime, if they know anyone who'd been charged with a similar crime. And then depending on their answers we'll ask more questions.

Bill: Right. Well they're a series of questions and I think we, you and I are probably a very similar style where there are certain statutory things that are written in the book, the law books, about who is elgible. You have to live in a certain county, you have to be over a certain age. And then it's more feel. You're asking people about their background, their experiences, their feelings about things because you want to make sure that someone isn't pre-judging your client. So I ask questions like, "Do you think this person should have to prove their innocence?" or "What would you think if the person didn't testify?" Because these are presumptions of innocence that everyone brings to court. It's complicated and it's something that we study year in-year out, I read books every year on jury selection. If you or someone you care about is looking at a jury trial in North Carolina, please give us a ring, we're here to help.

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