Voir dire is the stage of a jury trial at which prospective jurors are questioned under oath by court or counsel to determine their suitability as jurors in the case to be tried. Kentucky's high court has repeatedly recognized the importance of voir dire to the exercise of for-cause and peremptory challenges.
The trial judge's wide discretion in voir dire, however, necessarily makes a review of appellate decisions of minimal assistance in ascertaining what actually occurs during this important phase of a jury trial. Published opinions provide little guidance in this area; information about voir dire must come from a study of the trial process.
Therefore, in order to gain a perspective on Kentucky voir dire practices, the author conducted a comprehensive survey of Kentucky circuit court judges. This survey involved a written questionnaire that was sent to all circuit judges, eighty percent of whom completed it, and follow-up interviews with fifteen randomly-selected judges. This article analyzes the results of the study and recommends standards to guide the discretion of trial judges.
William H. Fortune, Voir Dire in Kentucky: An Empirical Study of Voir Dire in Kentucky Circuit Courts, 69 Ky. L.J. 273 (1981).