Voir dire in action in the Hammer Hitman Murder Trial

Posted at 6:21 PM, November 19, 2019 and last updated 6:21 PM, November 19, 2019

COURT TV STAFF

Voir dire. Two seemingly small words that can have such a large impact on a trial.

The legal phrase translates in French “to see to speak.” The purpose of voir dire is asking potential jurors questions to determine their suitability for jury service. Voir dire can also be used to determine the competency of an expert.

But just like the rules change from state to state and courtroom to courtroom, so do the rules for voir dire.

SOURCE: COURT TV

Voir dire is in full swing in Fort Myers, Florida, where a man will stand trial for his wife’s murder nearly one month after the hitman was found guilty of second-degree murder.

Mark Sievers is facing the death penalty for the gruesome murder of beloved holistic doctor Teresa Sievers. 46-year-old Teresa Sievers was bludgeoned to death at her Bonita Springs home on June 28, 2015, after returning home alone from a  family trip to Connecticut. Her body, that sustained seventeen blunt force trauma blows, was found the next day.
Prosecutors say Mark Sievers planned his wife’s murder, but before they can spell out their case in front of a jury, they first have to select a jury. Making the process more challenging these jurors will also need to be cleared for a capital punishment case because if Sievers is convicted of first-degree murder, the jury would decide between the death penalty or life in prison as punishment. It took the court two days to ask prospective jurors about their views on the death penalty, which invoked religious and philosophical conversations about executions in open court.
Here are the voir dire rules in Florida:
  • A person whose beliefs prohibit them from choosing the death penalty  cannot be a juror in a capital case
  • A jury panel for a capital case is made up of 12 individuals and the judge decides how many alternates are needed
  • Each side receives 10 preemptory strikes in a capital punishment case
  • Each side also gets one preemptory strike/challenge for the alternates

The State and Defense questioned the final pool of 36 prospective jurors in preparation for using their ten strikes each.

And in the end, 12 jurors and two alternates were sworn in. Opening statements are scheduled to begin at 10 am ET on Wednesday, November 20.

 

This story was contributed to by Julia Jenaé, Crime & Justice Reporter/ Field Producer for Court TV.

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