October 2013 - Pg 10-Attorney Question
Attorney Question of the Month
This month’s Attorney Question of the Month is a continuation of a question we started last month. This line of inquiry, posed by Network President Marty Hayes, asked–
For the most part, jury selection is glossed over in law school (or not discussed at all), even though the jury is the trier of fact. With this in mind, this is a two-part question. First, as the attorney handling a self-defense shooting, what type of people would you want on a jury? Next, what steps can the armed citizen take ahead of time to ensure that they do not alienate a jury?
Our affiliated attorneys’ responses follow–
Kevin E. J. Regan
The Regan Law Firm, L.L.C.
1821 Wyandotte St., Suite 200, Kansas City, MO 64108
Voir Dire is the term used for jury selection in the United States. In Latin, it means, “to tell the truth” and in French, it means “to see and to say.”
I practice law in the Midwest. In Kansas, they call it Voir “Deer.” In Missouri, they call it Voir “DIre.” And in Oklahoma, they call it “pickin’ a jury.” This portion of the trial is not taught very well at the law school level, in my opinion.
The reason is that there is no practical way for law schools to muster actual prospective jurors to come down and be experimental subjects for law students. Voir Dire is the most difficult portion of the trial, because the attorney does not know in advance the responses that will be given by the panel.
While most folks think jury selection is engineered to pick the twelve most competent people to try the case, this is not actually true or practical.
There is no way to get the exact twelve jurors you want to try your case. The actual goal of the exercise is to eliminate for cause and with peremptory challenges all jurors the attorney feels will NOT be fair to his/her client. I think it is every bit as important to discuss the types of the individuals I would not want on a self-defense trial jury, as well as to discuss the types of jurors I would want to try the case. To wrongly leave a prejudiced or biased juror on the panel is creating a time bomb for your client and is malpractice, in my humble opinion.
Typically in a case of this nature, I would welcome NRA members, individuals who own firearms for protection, victims of violent crime or their family members, practical shooting enthusiasts, handgun owners and small business owners.
Beyond this generalization, I would want to prepare many questions to ask the venire panel to gauge their responses in determining whether they seem to be for or against my client’s position.
Questions I would ask would include:
Have any of you had to defend yourself against threats of violence?
Have any of you witnessed a crime of violence?
Have any of you lost a loved one due to the wrongful acts of a criminal?