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Abstract

In the United States, voir dire is viewed as essential to selecting an impartial jury. Judges, lawyers, and the public fervently believe that a fair trial depends on distinguishing between prospective jurors who are impartial and those who are not. However, in England, Australia, and Canada, there are impartial jury trials without voir dire. This article challenges the assumption that prospective jurors enter the courtroom as either impartial or partial and that voir dire will reveal the impartial ones. Though voir dire fails as an “impartiality detector,” this article explores how voir dire contributes to the trial process in two critical, but unacknowledged, ways. First, voir dire helps to transform “reluctant citizens,” who might have biases into “responsible jurors,” who are able to perform their role impartially. Second, voir dire lays the foundation for the judge-jury relationship, which is aided by other practices during and even after the trial.

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