Friday, June 09, 2006

CA:"trial court did not abuse its discretion by calling 44 people for simultaneous voir dire questioning"

People v Serrano, __ NY3d __ [available here]

Apparently wanting to limit the number of rounds required to complete jury selection, the trial court in Serrano "called 44 individuals for simultaneous questioning, placing twelve in the jury box and the others in four front rows of the courtroom." (Serrano, __ NY3d at __.) Defense counsel objected, "stating that he would have difficulty conducting an effective voir dire since many prospective jurors sat behind him." (Id. at __.) Noting that the relevant statute only provides that "not less than twelve" prospective jurors are to be called at a time, the Court held:

Tellingly, the legislature set no upper limit for the number of prospective jurors, thus allowing judges discretion to make their courtrooms, and voir dire, more efficient. Defendant has not demonstrated that he could not conduct a voir dire by the trial court's decision to expand the jury box. During voir dire, counsel expressed no inability to observe, hear or assess the demeanor and qualifications of, or exercise challenges against, any prospective jurors. There was also no evidence of prejudice on the record at the end of voir dire. We therefore conclude that there was no abuse of discretion [...]

(Id at __.)

Nothing groundbreaking here, but lets hope trial courts don't get wind of it and start doing voir dire in one pass.