Brown & Little, P.L.C. » Entries tagged with "voir dire"

Life’s Too Short

Scott Greenfield at Simple Justice put up a post earlier today about the disturbing phenomenon of new lawyers teaching continuing legal education courses. It’s a must-read that brings a story to mind. Pretty much every year I attend the Arizona Public Defender Association’s Annual Statewide Conference. I am perpetually surprised by the lack of the experience of many of the presenters and the depth of experience of most of those who sit in the audience. One particular situation arising from that continues to amuse me years later. For a few years, I’ve frequently sought advice from an appellate public defender I met through my wife. To say I admire him greatly would be an understatement. He’s amazing. He’s been licensed since 1975 and is an encyclopedia … Read entire article »

Filed under: CLE

Blurring Lines

I picked a jury last week. During voir dire, I noted something that struck me as particularly interesting. I wondered if there was much to read into it. I noticed most members of the panel drew no distinction between law enforcement experience and military service. When the judge asked the jurors if they or any close friends or family had any law enforcement experience, most people who answered in the affirmative did so because they had friends or family in the armed forces. My impression was that they viewed the two as being the same because they view both soldiers and cops as protectors. I found the lack of distinction troubling. Maybe it’s the libertarian in me, but I’m bothered by the increasing police militarization in this country. … Read entire article »

Filed under: Uncategorized

Looking Foolish

There’s an experienced judge in a nearby jurisdiction who won’t rule in advance on whether he will allow the parties to ask their proposed voir dire questions. His position, which he makes very clear, is that he will rule on the questions when they’re actually asked. He isn’t kidding. If the state objects after you ask it, he rules. The opposite is also true. Otherwise, you can ask whatever you want. No ruling. It makes submitting your questions pointless, though every other judge in the jurisdiction orders you to do it in advance. I once asked him in chambers why he does it that way, and he said it was because he thought the parties should be bright enough to know what they can … Read entire article »

Filed under: Courts, Trial

Trogdor!

Figuring out when and to what extent to involve a client in the inner workings of a trial can be tricky. It’s his life and they’re his objectives, so you obviously can’t ignore him. He should know what’s happening and at times even have a say in what you do, but you also shouldn’t spend all of your time leaning over explaining why you can’t use your peremptory strike on the prosecutor or why the prosecutor’s “prejudice against gang-bangers” doesn’t bring up equal protection issues. Like pretty much everything in the world of criminal defense, it’s all about balance and exercising well-reasoned, independent, professional judgment in the midst of the institutional chaos of trial. Voir dire is a time when client input seems most important to me. … Read entire article »

Filed under: Clients, Trial

They Were Practically Begging to Be Struck…

A lot of people have been writing about peremptory challenges lately. You can read some interesting posts here and here. In Arizona, the parties each get six peremptory challenges in felony cases not punishable by death. It’s not always easy getting a juror struck for cause, so those six “free” strikes usually feel like far too few. The problem is that most people think they can be fair even when they really can’t be. Who’s willing to admit to a room of strangers that they can’t possibly be fair and impartial? Recently, I learned that when drinking and driving might be involved, the answer is “almost everyone.” I had a trial a couple months ago where there was evidence my client drank alcohol prior to … Read entire article »

Filed under: DUI, Trial

Juror Questions

Every once in a while I come across a ruling that’s so unfair I can hardly believe what I’m reading. State v. Detrich, a 1997 Arizona Supreme Court case, contains one of those rulings. The defendant argued that the trial court erred in refusing to use his proposed jury questionnaire, which included questions about jurors’ racial attitudes, biases, and prejudices. The Court ruled against the defendant because he did not show that the trial judge’s failure to submit his questionnaire to the jury “resulted in a biased jury or rendered his trial fundamentally unfair.” The Court claimed the defendant offered no evidence of bias or prejudice of the jurors. Although the defendant argued there was no way of knowing whether they might have had some kind of racial animus … Read entire article »

Filed under: Arizona Cases

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