SAN ANTONIO – On June 1, in-person trials are expected to start back up in Bexar County. A central part of those trials is voir dire, also known as jury selection.
“It is the single most important part of a case,” defense attorney and St. Mary’s adjunct professor Jason Goss said.
Unless you have jury duty, you often don’t see or hear about the jury. In fact, jurors are identified by numbers, not their names.
The selection process is very tedious for lawyers and it’s a critical first step in a trial.
“If you are not paying attention and you’re not trying your best to really understand where people are coming from, then you could try a perfect case and you could just really be on your game to the best of your ability and you’re going to lose if you if you can’t find people that are willing to listen,” criminal defense attorney John Hunt said.
The process to lawyers is something there is no real formula for, as each case is different. One thing that is certain, is that attorneys go into jury selection to actually weed out the jurors they don’t want.
“It’s all about really deselection,” Goss said. “So it’s a process of identifying the jurors that you’re not going to want jurors that are not going to be good for your case.”
The process itself can get even trickier when courts open back up for attorneys as jurors will be required to wear face masks because of the coronavirus pandemic.
“We use facial expressions to gauge how they’re reacting to us all the time,” Goss said. “So that’s going to be a handicap for all the lawyers who are doing that because it’s a lot harder to gauge how this juror, a particular person, is reacting to the presentation that you make.”
Despite the tedious process, lawyers are hoping high-profile cases that are televised, like the Derek Chauvin trial in Minneapolis, makes people more aware of the importance of being a juror and fairly looking at all testimony presented.
“I think that shift in how the world views the relationship between the state and the citizen is is critical to us moving forward and healing in this country,” Hunt said. “So I hope that this has done some good for all of us in that sense.”
Jury summons have been sent out for the trials expected to begin next month.
The jury duty process will be different because of the pandemic. Potential jurors will report first online through Zoom, complete a questionnaire and ask questions they may have about jury service and then they will be given a date to report to the courthouse.