Trial Court Reversed For Precluding Voir Dire Question
May 1, 2006
The 3rd DCA last week reaffirmed the trial lawyer’s right to question prospective jurors on matters that go to the heart of a party’s case. In Stevens v. State, 928 So. 2d 409 (Fla 3rd DCA 2006), the Court held that it was error in a criminal trial to preclude the defense attorney from asking potential jurors about the legal defense of “necessity.” The trial court had reasoned that allowing the defense to question the jury on the defense of necessity would be “pre-trying” the case and would only confuse the jury if the evidence was inadquate to support the defense. The defendant was thereafter convicted of carrying a concealed firearm. The Appellate Court reversed, holding it was an abuse of discretion to deprive the defendant of the opportunity to discuss, or question the jury about, the defense of necessity during voir dire. This case reaffirms the trial lawyer’s right to question prospective jurors on “core” issues that go to the heart of a party’s case.