By Nathan J. D. Veldhuis
“Voir dire,” translated literally from the French means, “to see to say.” The scope of voir dire is established by Va. Code Ann. § 8.01-358, and Va. S. Ct. R. 3A:14. Va. Code § 8.01-358, authorizes the court and counsel to examine prospective jurors to determine whether they “stand indifferent in the cause”:
The court and counsel for either party shall have the right to examine under oath any person who is called as a juror therein and shall have the right to ask such person or juror directly any relevant question to ascertain whether he is related to either party, or has any interest in the cause, or has expressed or formed any opinion, or is sensible of any bias or prejudice therein; the party objecting to any juror may introduce any competent evidence in support of the objection; and if shall appear to the court that the juror does not stand indifferent in the cause, another shall be drawn or called and placed in his stead for the trial of that case.
A juror knowing anything relative to a fact in issue, shall disclose the same in open court.
From a plain reading of this statute, four areas define the scope of voir dire in state court in the Commonwealth of Virginia:1
(1) Whether a venireman is related to either party;
(2) Whether a venireman has any interest in the cause;
(3) Whether a venireman has expressed or formed any opinion [therein]; and
(4) Whether a venireman is sensible of any bias or prejudice therein.
On their face, these categories appear to overlap conceptually—and sometimes they do. The following case examples will, however, illustrate the “essentials” of these categories.
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