Political Education

Voir Dire

Voir Dire

There are rough similarities between the presidential impeachment process and a jury trial.

Jury trials start off when a grand jury investigates a situation and if there is a cause, returns an indictment.

The House of Representatives similarly investigates a matter and if there is a cause, writes articles of impeachment.

In a jury trial there are prosecutors and defence lawyers.

In an impeachment trial the House designates managers which serve as prosecutors. The president will put together a defence team to represent him.

A major difference between jury trials and impeachment trials is the practice of voir dire.

Voir dire is used in jury trials. Jurors must take an oath promising to tell the truth. To make sure that the jurors are sincere in their oath, the prosecutors and defence question them before the actual trial begins.

Prospective jurors are asked about their backgrounds and possible biases.

The prosecution or defence may then ‘strike for cause’, which is a request to remove a juror who does not appear capable of rendering a fair and impartial verdict.

There is a similarity in that under the Constitution and Senate procedures, senators take an oath and swear they will be impartial in the impeachment trial.

Unlike jurors, senators may declare their decision before the impeachment trial begins and cannot be disqualified for bias.

Republican Senate Majority Leader McConnell has said he will work in “total coordination” with the Republican White House.

Ranking Democratic Member of the House Judiciary Committee Nadler has said: “I don’t understand how he (the Senate Majority Leader) can possibly take the oath that he’s required to take.”

Democratic Speaker of the House Pelosi said that while the country’s founders planned for a “rogue” president, “I don’t think they suspected that we’d have a rogue president and a rogue leader in the Senate at the same time.”

Speaker Pelosi intends to delay sending the articles of impeachment to the Senate until there is an agreement to procedural rules that would make the proceedings a “real trial.”

“When we see the process that is set forth in the Senate, then we’ll know the number of managers that we may have to go forward and who we will choose,” Speaker Pelosi said.

The voir dire process attempts to assure a fair and impartial jury trial.

Lacking a voir dire process, the withholding of articles of impeachment pending negotiated rules of engagement is as close as the House can come to holding Senators to be fair and impartial as their oath requires.

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