Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Examination and Challenges of the Trial Jurors

Rule 631. Examination and Challenges of the Trial Jurors.

(A) Voir dire of prospective trial jurors and prospective alternate jurors shall be conducted, and the jurors shall be selected, in the presence of a judge, unless the judge’s presence is waived by the attorney for the Commonwealth, the defense attorney, and the defendant, with the judge’s consent.

(B) This oath shall be administered individually or collectively to the prospective jurors:

‘‘You do solemnly swear by Almighty God (or do declare and affirm) that you will answer truthfully all questions that may be put to you concerning your qualifications for service as a juror.’’

(C) Voir dire, including the judge’s ruling on all proposed questions, shall be recorded in full unless the recording is waived. The record will be transcribed only upon written request of either party or order of the judge.

(D) Prior to voir dire, each prospective juror shall complete the standard, confidential juror information questionnaire as provided in Rule 632. The judge may require the parties to submit in writing a list of proposed questions to be asked of the jurors regarding their qualifications. The judge may permit the defense and the prosecution to conduct the examination of prospective jurors or the judge may conduct the examination. In the latter event, the judge shall permit the defense and the prosecution to supplement the examination by such further inquiry as the judge deems proper.

(E) In capital cases, the individual voir dire method must be used, unless the defendant waives that alternative. In non-capital cases, the trial judge shall select one of the following alternative methods of voir dire, which shall apply to the selection of both jurors and alternates:


(a) Voir dire of prospective jurors shall be conducted individually and may be conducted beyond the hearing and presence of other jurors.

(b) Challenges, both peremptory and for cause, shall be exercised alternately, beginning with the attorney for the Commonwealth, until all jurors are chosen. Challenges shall be exercised immediately after the prospective juror is examined. Once accepted by all parties, a prospective juror shall not be removed by peremptory challenge. Without declaring a mistrial, a judge may allow a challenge for cause at any time before the jury begins to deliberate, provided sufficient alternates have been selected, or the defendant consents to be tried by a jury of fewer than 12, pursuant to Rule 641.


(a) A list of prospective jurors shall be prepared. The list shall contain a sufficient number of prospective jurors to total at least 12, plus the number of alternates to be selected, plus the total number of peremptory challenges (including alternates).

(b) Prospective jurors may be examined collectively or individually regarding their qualifications. If the jurors are examined individually, the examination may be conducted beyond the hearing and presence of other jurors.

(c) Challenges for cause shall be exercised orally as soon as the cause is determined.

(d) When a challenge for cause has been sustained, which brings the total number on the list below the number of 12 plus alternates, plus peremptory challenges (including alternates), additional prospective jurors shall be added to the list.

(e) Each prospective juror subsequently added to the list may be examined as set forth in paragraph (E)(2)(b).

(f) When the examination has been completed and all challenges for cause have been exercised, peremptory challenges shall then be exercised by passing the list between prosecution and defense, with the prosecution first striking the name of a prospective juror, followed by the defense, and alternating thereafter until all peremptory challenges have been exhausted. If either party fails to exhaust all peremptory challenges, the jurors last listed shall be stricken. The remaining jurors and alternates shall be seated. No one shall disclose which party peremptorily struck any juror.