John Constance


The term voir dire derives from the Latin phrase verum dicere, literally meaning "to speak the truth."' In American jurisprudence, voir dire has come to mean the pretrial questioning of venire members during which a judge or party is given the opportunity to ask the prospective jurors questions in an attempt to reveal their personal tendencies and possible biases. Missouri courts have held that the right to a fair and impartial panel of twelve qualified jurors is the cornerstone of the judicial system. As such, it is the duty of prospective jurors on voir dire examination to "fully, fairly, and truthfully answer all questions so that qualifications for service may be determined and challenges properly exercised." Or, more simply, they must speak the truth. Yet, history has shown that jurors are often not wholly honest and forthcoming when answering questions during voir dire, despite being under oath. One study of Illinois criminal trials found that almost one in five prospective jurors withheld information during questioning.6 Within civil trials, a recurrent issue before Missouri courts is whether a prospective juror's nondisclosure of prior litigation has led to an unfair verdict.

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