Insights into Voir Dire and the Role of Prosecutor
From French, “To see, To speak”
Last skill mastered as trial lawyer, because most difficult to do correctly.
i.e. Stumbling to find juror’s name in notes vs. memorizing names while defense questioned.
“Unpicking” a jury – Group Psychology.
How you, as investigating officer, can help the prosecutor. You know community and families. What you notice in the courtroom, in the neighborhood where they live.
Questioning: Done by Judge/Attorneys
Officer/Prosecutor Credibility with them more important than with any other person in court, including the judge.
Your language/dialect vs. “police speak.” getting out of car vs. “exiting vehicle”.
Trials take place in courthouse not just courtroom – be on guard about how you conduct yourself, what you say out loud, don’t want to be embarrassed or run into potential juror who heard you on elevator. You are at work, on the job, while on courthouse grounds.
Role of Prosecutor
Evolution of Prosecutor Elective thanks to Jacksonian democracy. 1828 until Civil War- no longer arm of judiciary – Independently elected. No city managers, no supervisors, etc., have to answer to.
Whether to charge, what to charge, the level of charge AND
The “Power of No”/Prosecutorial Discretion
Rivers of cases flow from islands of Law Enforcement agencies to one place and Only One place, The District Attorney.
Uniform Crime Charging Manual
“Reasonable probability of conviction by an impartial fact finder”
Note: This is more than probable cause
Not fooling anybody by arresting too soon. Premature arrest vs. getting warrant. (review and validation by prosecution agency)
Lazy officers think going to get statement then don’t, then have a person in custody with no evidence. Undermines credibility of police power, and public’ confidence in Justice System.
Collection of Evidence
Real Reason you complete and collect – to be used in court for prosecution. Secondary is to provide stats for studies, a reason one can sometimes bemoan because if stat driven then lose important element of the real life regarding criminal, victim, and police.
Trials AND suppression hearings, insanity pleas etc. Special proceedings need evidence too.
Talking to witnesses —You must talk to All — if don’t they will be defense witnesses by the time Trial roles around.
“You lie, you die”. Just the facts: just the actual, known facts. Lie on a police report and you are useless to the prosecution in the future. And most departments will fire you-as they should.
Real People – Real Situations. – Little old lady vs. homeless, “Stinky Alice” example.
Juries want real people, not a sanitized version of a witness.
More examples: Alcoholic. Told jury got him a drink. – Panhandler and Bum – I called him that before defense or jury could.
Role of Prosecutor – Continued
County wide jurisdiction – Projection of power per investigation bureau– police the police – representing people also means also representing the defendant as a citizen or member of society. Delivering justice.
Absolute vs. Qualified (Conclusive presumptions vs. Rebuttable presumptions)
Justified by “Chilling effect.”
Clear ethical duty is to do justice. May strike hard blows, but not unfair ones.