How does a winning trial attorney ensure that the jurors are well-suited to decide the specific case on trial? That is the objective of a successful voir dire—and the aim of ADA Ryan Calvert’s first-ever Voir Dire Boot Camp offered to Baylor Law students in May 2022.
Along with five experienced prosecutors and two sitting judges, Calvert offered the Boot Camp to complement Baylor Law’s successful Criminal Law Boot Camp led by veteran prosecutor Richard Alpert. The Voir Dire Boot Camp instructed future prosecutors and defense counsel on the keys to successful case evaluation, customized voir dire preparation, and how to effectively challenge jurors for cause.
“Everyone’s first voir dire is a train-wreck,” noted ADA Calvert, “I wanted to give the students an opportunity to make some of those “train-wreck” mistakes in the lower-risk environment of a training exercise rather than in a real trial. On Saturday afternoon, we did a performance exercise in which students had to conduct mock voir dire to jury panels comprised largely of community volunteers. What I saw in that exercise showed me that these students are on the way of going out and conducting a voir dire tomorrow, if necessary.”
Voir Dire Boot Camp Faculty
On the first day of the Boot Camp, students attended a series of workshops on the basics of jury selection, case evaluation, and challenges for cause. They then heard from Hon. Susan Piel, of Denton County Criminal Court Number 2, and Hon. Raquel “Rocky” Jones, presiding Judge of the 203rd Judicial District Court of Dallas County, about common mistakes that judges see lawyers make in voir dire and how to avoid them.
The second day included workshops on challenges for cause, incorporating persuasive arguments into voir dire, and strategizing voir dire objectives. The day ended with voir dire exercises with personalized critiques from experienced prosecutors. On the final day of the Boot Camp, Calvert introduced students to the intricacies and unique challenges of punishment voir dire.
“My goal was to equip the students to be able to conduct a competent voir dire on day one of their careers,” noted Calvert after the Boot Camp. “Voir dire, like any other skill, takes years of practice to truly master. I want the students to know how to evaluate a case to determine what topics need to be discussed in voir dire and how to approach those topics in a way that becomes a seamless part of their overall persuasive process that unfolds throughout the whole trial.”
The Voir Dire Boot Camp will be offered to Practice Court students during Spring Quarter on an ongoing basis.
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Baylor University is a private Christian University and a nationally ranked research institution. The University provides a vibrant campus community for more than 17,000 students by blending interdisciplinary research with an international reputation for educational excellence and a faculty commitment to teaching and scholarship. Chartered in 1845 by the Republic of Texas through the efforts of Baptist pioneers, Baylor is the oldest continually operating University in Texas. Located in Waco, Baylor welcomes students from all 50 states and more than 80 countries to study a broad range of degrees among its 12 nationally recognized academic divisions. Learn more at baylor.edu