Sample Voir Dire in a Military Court Martial

  • military-defense-lawyers663964Do all of you agree that a soldier accused of a crime and facing a court-martial has a right to be defended by military defense counsel and civilian defense counsel?
  • Do all of you understand that as PVT SMITH sits here, at this moment in this courtroom, he is presumed to be innocent of any and all charges brought against him? Are you able to give PVT SMITH the benefit of that presumption throughout this proceeding?
  • Do you all agree that that this court-martial is probably the most significant event in PVT SMITH’s life to date?
  • Has any member heard any rumors about this case or has any member overheard discussions from other individuals concerning this case at any point in time?
  • Has anyone ever appeared as a witness in a military or civilian criminal or civil proceeding?
  • Have any of you had any prior interactions with either trial counsel in this case, MAJOR ONE or CAPTAIN TWO?
  • Has anyone received any advice on military justice matters from any attorney in the legal office here at FORT NONAME?
  • Do any of you have a regular and ongoing working relationship, or do any of you socialize and/or interact in an off-duty setting with Lt Col SJA, the Staff Judge Advocate on this installation?
  • Do any of you have an ongoing working relationship or socialize and/or interact in an off-duty setting with anyone else who works in the legal office here at FORT NONAME?
  • Do any of you have a regular and ongoing working relationship, or do any of you socialize and/or interact in an off-duty setting with COLONEL TRIAL, the accused’s Commander?
  • Does any court member have a regular and ongoing working relationship, or does any member socialize and/or interact regularly in an off-duty setting with any other court member that is sitting on this panel today?
  • Does any court member know any of the following witnesses who may testify at this proceeding today? (List Witnesses)
  • For all panel members, do any of you feel that the Convening Authority or Commanding General expects a particular result because he ordered you to sit on this court-martial panel?
  • In this case the Government has charged PVT SMITH with sexual assault. The Military Judge has instructed you that PVT SMITH is presumed to be innocent of the charges the Government has preferred against him. Do you agree that the presumption of innocence means that PVT SMITH remains innocent unless the prosecution can prove the allegation against him beyond a reasonable doubt?
  1. Do any of you believe that because a Soldier has been charged by the government that he therefore must be guilty?
  • For all panel members, are you willing and able to find PVT SMITH not guilty of the charged offenses if the prosecution fails to prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt?
  • Knowing how serious the charged offenses are in this case, are each of you prepared to find PVT SMITH not guilty if the Government fails to produce sufficient evidence?
  • If PVT SMITH calls witnesses at this court-martial and presents evidence on his behalf, does everyone agree that you will consider this evidence just as you would evidence presented by the prosecution?
  • In this case, you will hear that on the night the sexual activity occurred, both PVT SMITH and the complaining witness had been drinking alcohol together.
  • Does any member believe that if a female drinks alcohol, then she cannot consent to sexual activity?
  • Do you think there has ever been a military member convicted of a crime they did not commit?
  • Has anyone ever known someone that was falsely accused of sexual assault?
  • In deciding whether or not you are going to believe the complaining witness, would each of you be willing to consider the probability or improbability of her story?
  • Would you be willing to consider her story and compare it to the physical, forensic, and scientific evidence in this case, or the lack of evidence?
  • If the alleged victim says she cannot remember certain details from the day in question or she changes the details of her story, will you be able to weigh that failure to recall and changed testimony when you are considering reasonable doubt?
  • Do you agree that some witnesses will embellish facts to make themselves seem more sympathetic or believable?
  • Does anyone believe that in order to believe someone is lying that you have to know their motive to lie?
  • So then each of you would agree that a person may lie and you and I may never know why?
  • In a case where a sexual assault or rape is alleged and a medical examination is conducted, would you all agree it is crucial to learn the results of that test to determine if a rape actually occurred?
  • If the complaining witness becomes emotional during her testimony while telling her story, would this fact, standing alone, convince you that she is telling the truth?
  • Can you follow the judge’s instruction if told that you must find PVT SMITH not guilty of sexual assault if you find that he had an honest and reasonable belief that the complaining witness was consenting to the sexual relations?
  • military-defense-lawyers4038005Would you be willing to consider the friendships and alliances of the witnesses in this case when evaluating their testimony?
  • Do you promise to wait for all witness to speak before making your determination today?
  • Do you all agree that just because an allegation is made does not mean that it is true?
  • Do you agree that some sexual assault allegations are false?
  • Do you agree that some people, after an embarrassing but consensual sexual encounter, will claim to “Not remember what happened” in order to save face or out of shame?
  • Has any member ever worked, in any capacity, with sex assault victims?
  • Has any member been part of a review board or family advocacy group that dealt with sexual allegations
  • Has any member received training in sexual assault?
  • Does anyone believe that in a case involving sexual assault, the Accused should testify in court?
  • Do you all agree that the Defense could present no evidence, and you could still find PVT SMITH not guilty?
  • Do any panel members want to hear from PVT SMITH, to hear his side of the story?
  • If PVT SMITH were not to testify in his own defense, would you draw any negative inference from that fact or consider his failure to testify as an indication of guilt?
  • Do you believe that an accused that does not testify is more likely to be guilty than an accused that does testify?
  • If there is conflicting testimony in this case by some of the witnesses, would you take this into consideration on the question of reasonable doubt?
  • If you come to the conclusion that the prosecution has not proven the guilt of PVT SMITH beyond a reasonable doubt, and you found that a majority of the panel believed PVT SMITH was guilty, would you change your verdict only because you were in the minority?
  • Has anyone close to you ever been arrested for or charged with a sexual assault related offense or an offense related to unlawfully entering the dwelling of another?
  • Have you or has anyone close to you ever been a victim of a sexual assault related offense or an offense related to unlawfully entering the dwelling of another?
  • Has any member been involved in the investigation and/or bringing of charges in a court-martial for a sexual assault related offense or an offense related to unlawfully entering the dwelling of another?
  • Have any of you ever worked in or received specialized training in a law enforcement-related jobs, such as police, sheriff, trooper, prison guard, or military police?
  • During this proceeding, you will eventually be asked to deliberate as a collective body to determine whether PVT SMITH is guilty or not guilty to each charge. However, you will each vote individually. Do each of you understand that your personal voting decision is an independent decision?
  • bestmilitarydefensedefenseattorneys10.03.40PMcopyNormally in the military we operate under the principle to follow the government’s policies and procedures, even if they are contrary to our own personal preferences. Do you all understand that in this setting, in this court-martial, military status and rank play no part – that you are to perform your duties in this case as individuals, free from any command influence or interference?
  • Would any member in any way feel that you were letting the military down if you voted to acquit PVT SMITH?
  • Do each of you understand you would not be fulfilling your duty as a member of this court if you allowed guess work or suspicion to enter into your decision making?
  • In your deliberations you may be confronted with two equally plausible theories about what happened in this case – one theory that is consistent with PVT SMITH’s guilt and another that is consistent with his innocence. Do I have your promise that if this happens, each of you will recognize that the prosecution has failed to meet its burden of proof and vote for acquittal?

training in a law enforcement-related jobs

For all panel members,