At a pre-trial court appearance, the Defense attorney mentioned to the Judge that she would be preparing jury questionnaires for the jury panel to use during voir dire. We have one more final pre-trial setting, which will be 3 days before trial, then the case is set for jury selection. The Judge instructed the attorney to have the proposed jury questionnaires ready for me to review and approve and/or object to at the final pre-trial date.
Our jury panel always answers the standard little questionnaire (age, religion, ethnicity, what do you do, what does your husband do, ever been on a jury, etc.).
Based on the pre-trial motions that were filed, I can only imagine what a jury questionnarie drafted by this attorney will contain.
My question is this: Does a party have a right to use their own jury questionnaire? Can I object to any and all questions? Is there case law on this subject?
I haven't encountered this before, so any guidance would be appreciated.
Oh, and this is a misdemeanor case of Reckless Driving. Fairly simple, right? You wouldn't think a jury questionnaire would be necessary or helpful.............
You can object to questions in written form just as you would if the lawyer asked them aloud. The usual objections: misstatement of the law, Standefer and the like. Or, if the questionnaire is long and intrusive, simply stand up at voir dire and ask the venire how they liked Lawyer X's questionnaire.
I'm in the middle of a capital murder trial (not seeking death) and the defense wanted to do a jury questionnaire. The judge carefully considered the request and then ruled that it would be too time-consuming and that all issues could be adequately addressed by the lawyers during our voir dires. The judge has the discretion to allow a questionnaire and they are usually reserved for more serious cases. I would be surprised if your judge allowed it. Remember, you always have the right to challenge in good faith what the other side does, a request for a questionnaire included. Also, be wary of any questions that are asked on a questionnaire that, if answered a certain way, automatically disqualify the juror ("Have you formed and opinion that will influence your verdict?"). I hate these kind of questions and always object because I want the chance to educate and protect jurors before they give answers that prohibit me from rehabilitating them. Good luck.
IF you do the questionaire (which I don't think is such a bad thing), get the judge to order and/or the other attorney to agree on the record to NOT rehash the material on the questionaire during voir dire. If it happens (and, I'm betting it will), ask to approach and object. Jury questionaires are pushed in criminal defense seminars as "a good thing" but too often no one reads them or has a clue how to use them. If this is one of those ploys, make 'em pay.
I like questionnaires. If the defense attorney wants to know something about a juror, it is a good bet I want to know it also. Certainly, you don't want the defense attorney to word questions so that the answer could result in strike for cause or they are more instructive(educating the juror on their version of the case/law) than inquisitive. I have used them in several capitals, mini caps and "straight" murders. The court has allowed questionnaires as long as we agree on the questions. If there a few we can't agree on, we let the court decide. The judge makes it clear that if we can't generally agree on most of the questions and it becomes a problem, he won't allow them at all. This keeps the defense in line, gets us good juror information and occasionally gives us a little more insight into the defenses case as well as the type of juror they think is good or bad.
The biggest problem I've had with questionnaires in a non-death case is that the judge is always hesitant to give you much time to review them.
If he gives you at least a day or so to look over them, then they're extremely helpful. However, I've had judges give us less than a half a day to review them before we have to get up and do a general voir dire.
How do you assimilate 40+ questionnaires that are 5-10 pages long in that amount of time? In that sort of a situation, they end up actually being detrimental to you because you end up being prohibited, or at least strongly discouraged, from rehashing what's in there, yet you haven't had the time necessary to put any of that information to good use.
That being said, I can't imagine a judge granting a request for a questionnaire in a misdemeanor, and I do believe I'd object to it as being an unnecessary waste of time.
I have a Aggravated Sexual Assault trial coming up and would like to use a questionnaire. Has anyone ever used one that you wouldn't mind sharing?
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