Judges’ Voir Dire


Federal criminal-defense lawyers know that the questioning performed by judges in federal criminal cases is, in most cases, worthless at best and devastating at worst. They ask closed-ended questions, lead and use stupid lawyer stuff and otherwise impede the lawyers’ efforts to get the jurors’ true feelings.

Anne Reed’s Deliberations post today is about a Seventh Circuit opinion suggesting that “the better practice is for the district court to ask non-leading questions when examining a juror for bias.” The Seventh Circuit affirmed the conviction despite the judge’s less-than-helpful voir dire. The real treasure (for me, at least) was Anne’s reference to this opinion (pdf) from the Eight Circuit in which the court affirmed and a district court judge from the Northern District of Iowa, sitting by designation, dissented (he would have reversed) because the trial judge’s “cursory” voir dire “could not reasonably assure that racial prejudice would be discovered, if present.”

I had heard of this particular Iowa judge before. I’m glad to see that he’s making a good name for himself. His name? Mark Bennett.

Technorati Tags: , , , ,


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.