voir dire or opening statements

Week 2 – Discussion 2

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Your initial discussion thread is due on Day 3 (Thursday) and you have until Day 7 (Monday) to respond to your classmates. Your grade will reflect both the quality of your initial post and the depth of your responses. Refer to the Discussion Forum Grading Rubric under the Settings icon above for guidance on how your discussion will be evaluated.

Voir Dire or Opening Statements [WLO: 2, 3] [CLO: 4]

If your last name begins with the letters A through M: Prior to beginning work on this video presentation, read Presumed Fair? Voir Dire on the Fundamentals of our Criminal Justice System (Links to an external site.) and Trial Myths and Misconceptions. Additionally, watch The Art of Voir Dire (Links to an external site.).

As you know from the reading and video materials for this week, the term voir dire literally means truth. Your video presentation must show a comprehensive understanding of the process of voir dire and its significance in a criminal trial.

In this discussion forum, you will prepare a two- to three-minute video presentation and post it within the discussion forum detailing the following information:

  • Explain the legal term voir dire, its origins, and its purposes.
  • Detail the process of voir dire, and distinguish between preemptory and discretionary strikes of potential jury members.
  • Provide an opinion of whether or not the process of voir dire serves its stated ends.
  • Create improvements in the current system of voir dire to ensure fair and impartial jurors for criminal trials.
  • Explain whether or not a defendant is entitled to a “fair” or a perfect jury.
  • Distinguish between preemptory strikes of jurors vs. strikes for cause of potential jurors.

If your last name begins with the letters N through Z: Prior to beginning work on this video presentation, read Presumed Fair? Opening Statements: Persuasive Advocacy Without Crossing the Line (Links to an external site.) and Opening Statements: You Never Get a Second Chance to Make a First Impression (Links to an external site.). As you know from the reading and video materials for this week, opening statements are not opening arguments. Instead, lawyers are required to state simply what the facts of the case will show and what will be proven at trial. In this assignment, you will prepare a two- to three-minute video presentation and post it within the discussion forum detailing the following information:

  • Explain the purposes of opening statements in a criminal trial.
  • Detail the order in which opening statements occur to the jury, and comment on whether or not this ordering seems the most fair or not.
  • Provide an opinion on the significance of opening statements; are jury trials won or lost at this stage of the proceeding and why?
  • Create improvements to the current system of opening statements to insure that the truth is ascertained through the trial process.
  • Examine the notion of latitude given to attorneys from some judges to argue their cases in the opening statements.
  • Should such actions be allowed? Why or why not?

Please note that oral presentations will take place in the Canvas discussion forum. This oral presentation will be available for both the instructor and your fellow classmates to view.

Recording or uploading a video:

  • Write a script. Name and save your script as a MS Word document. (The script will be used for reference while you record your video and may be used as a transcript for accessibility purposes).
  • Record your presentation using the Canvas video tool. Review the Canvas Video Submission Instructions on how to create a video post using your computer’s webcam.
  • As an alternative, you may use an external platform called Screencast-O-Matic (Links to an external site.). Please review the Screencast-O-Matic Quick-Start Guide instructions in order to get started. This guide will familiarize you with the tool and review how to upload your video to the classroom.
  • If you choose to use another video recording tool for your submission, such as a cell phone or digital video camera, upload your video to YouTube (Android (Links to an external site.) or iPhone & iPad (Links to an external site.)) or other web-based video platform, obtain a link, and paste your video link within your initial post in this discussion forum.
  • Paste your script within your initial post in this discussion forum.

For advice and information on webcam presentations, see Webcam Recording Do’s and Don’ts (Links to an external site.).

Guided Response: Review several of your peer’s video posts. Respond in writing to at least two of your classmates’ posts. At least one of your posts must be to a student addressing the question that you did not respond to in your initial, primary response. For example, if you responded to the voir dire prompt, at least one of your two responses must be to a student who responded to the opening statements prompt. Consider the opinions expressed by your peers, and provide any additional insights on topic that your peers many not have considered. Any time you respond to your classmates’ postings, always ask the questions, “why is it done this way,” and “how could this process be improved.” Specific to these discussions, is asking potential jurors questions about their beliefs the best way to find an impartial jury to determine guilt or innocence in a criminal case? Opening statements for criminal trials are required to be limited only to what the lawyers say will be proven at trial. Should lawyers be able to argue their cases at this point? Consider the difference between a statement and an argument in your responses to classmates. Your responses must be at least 150 words of content and supported by a minimum of two scholarly and/or credible sources (i.e., classroom materials or reliable, outside sources). You are encouraged to post your required replies earlier in the week to promote more meaningful and interactive discourse in this discussion forum. Continue to monitor the discussion forum until 5:00 p.m. (Mountain Time) on Day 7, and respond with robust dialogue to anyone who replies to your initial post.