Voire Dire

Jerry Polaha a Washoe County \District Court Judge described Voire Dire this way. " Voire Dire is french term meaning to tell the truth. And what we are after when we come to court is a panel of jurors whether it be a civil or criminal case, who do not have any biases or prejudices one way or the other."

Traditionally jury selection is done in open court so the public can make sure the process is legal. But sometimes Polaha says there are circumstances where voire dire is done behind closed doors.

That just happened this week, during the Walgreen discrimination case. Judge Janet Berry interviewed seven prospective jurors behind closed doors. The reason, if some jurors were asked about racial prejudices they have, they may lie in public. The judge and attorneys may think they have an impartial juror when they do not.

And judge Polaha says there are other instances where voire dire is done behind closed doors...its not uncommon in a rape or child molestation case where a potential juror has experienced that trauma but does not want to admit it in open court. " And I can put that aside and sit as a fair and impartial juror then we can bring them back out and we can continue on. And if they just say no, that is uppermost in my mind, it happened to my little boy or my little girl, then we excuse them."

Polaha says the courts can address the "public" side of going behind closed doors by having the questioning done with a court reporter--all the information will be within court documents. And if using a potential jurors name becomes a problem, Polaha says numbers can be used in its place.

Polaha says in general a potential juror will request do go into judge's chambers at the time of Voire Dire. But sometimes a judge or attorney can see a pontential problem and make the request beforhand.


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