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Video briefs jurors before they enter courtroom

The chief justice sits, framed by potted plants and backed by a shelf full of Virginia law books, looking straight at the viewer. “You have been selected as a prospective juror,” she says.

The introduction from Chief Justice Cynthia D. Kinser kicks off the juror orientation video prepared by the Virginia State Bar and released through the Supreme Court of Virginia.

Before a lawyer first gets to talk to a jury panel, the jurors will likely have seen the 15-minute video designed to familiarize newcomers to the process of a jury trial. Lawyers preparing a voir dire speech or opening statement might do well to take a look at what jurors already have been told to expect.

“Your voice matters in the Virginia justice system,” a voice-over actor reads. “We know you will take the responsibility seriously.”

The juror orientation video is available as a Windows Media file on the Supreme Court’s website, but it might be easier to view as an embedded YouTube video on the website of the Wise County Circuit Clerk.

The video explains the difference between civil and criminal trials and describes the roles of the people in the courtroom. Jurors are urged to speak up about any circumstance that might prevent them from being fair. A lawyer addresses the venire in one scene: “Have any of you, or your close family members, ever been involved in a serious vehicular accident before?”

The video touches on jury selection, including strikes for cause and peremptory strikes.

“The attorneys kept looking at me the whole time. Then, they would look down, write notes. I kept wondering what they were thinking the whole time. It made me feel pretty uncomfortable,” one “juror” tells the camera.

The video even offers suggestions on jury deliberations. “Speak freely and keep an open mind,” the announcer advises.

The credits advise the video was presented as a public service by the VSB with financial support from the Virginia Law Foundation.

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