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Posted in Uncategorized on October 18, 2022   |  by Gary Burger

Voir Dire

Voir Dire means “to speak the truth.” It is a preliminary examination to determine the competency of potential jurors. These potential jurors are questioned by either the judge or a lawyer to determine their suitability for jury service. The cornerstone of our judicial system lies upon the constitutional right to a fair and impartial jury, composed of twelve qualified jurors. (Williams v. Barnes Hospital, 736 S.W.2d 33, 36.) It is fundamental that jurors should be thoroughly impartial. (Kendall v. Prudential Insurance Co., 327 S.W.2d 174, 177.)

The voir dire process is used to eliminate conceived biases. Each side, prosecution and defense, is entitled to three peremptory challenges. A prospective juror must be:

  • At least 21 years of age
  • A citizen of the United States
  • A resident of the county or city issuing the summons
  • If convicted of a felony has had their civil rights restored
  • Able to read, speak and understand the English language
  • Must not be mentally or physically ill or infirmed

In Missouri, the master jury list will be a selection of names from at least two sources, which can be the personal property tax list, voter’s registration list and driver’s license records. The list will consist of not less than 5 percent of the total population of the county or city not within a county, but never less than 400 names. In Illinois, the jury lists are compiled in September in each year, or any time thereafter, as necessary, holders of valid driver’s licenses, Illinois Identification Cards, or Illinois Person with a Disability Identification Cards and the claimants for unemployment insurance, and ordered alphabetically and by county. The jury list is made by choosing every tenth name, or other whole number rate necessary, with duplicate names avoided to the extent possible. Summoned jurors are drawn manually by a blindfolded county clerk, from a well shaken box containing the names; or randomly drawn by a computer.

If your name is randomly selected for the jury pool, you receive a jury summons instructing you to appear for jury selection. While there a few excuses for getting out of jury selection in Missouri, as well as in Illinois, most people summoned will have to report to the courthouse for the next stage of the juror selection process.