I have been involved in one or two death penalty cases, and my experience has been that it takes several weeks to pick a jury with individual voir dire. I've got a case set now where the judge has demanded that we start general voir dire on Monday, hand out questionnaires and get them back, then individual starts on Tuesday, spending 45 minutes apiece on each juror, 10 jurors a day, to conclude on Friday. That's right--do individual voir dire on no more than 40 jurors, get a death-qualified jury, and start evidence the Monday following.
What I'd like to know is, has anyone ever heard of, or tried a death penalty case in which the jury selection took less than one week? What is the average time it takes, for those of you in a position to know? Are there any statistics available on this issue (I suspect not)?
We did it in 9 days once, and everyone thought that was a record. I don't think that included the questionnaire (1 day) and 2 days of group voir dire (half the group at a time). I don't think you can really set a definite time limit per juror. You have to play it by ear, depending on their responses. I would think that your judge would also realize that with someone's life on the line and such a serious case at stake, that fairness to both sides takes priority over expediency.
That seems like the kind of thing you might be reading about in a last minute death penalty writ 10 years from now. But maybe I have that stuff on the brain.
The Lizard Man is innocent!
We found recently that defense counsel are less likely to agree to strikes based on questionnare answers and want to talk to everybody. This drags it out quite a bit.
1978 - Picked a death qualified jury in four days. People's opinion about the death penalty were not tainted at that time by the press. Most recent death penalty took less than three weeks with the defense counsel not using all of peremptories - be reasonable and understand that the bulk of the jury will consist of people who question the death penalty to middle of the road opinons about the death penalty. Best of luck and keep your head above the arguing.
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