The magistrate judge advises the prosecution and defense attorney that she will allow 45 minutes total for voir dire to be divided between the two sides. The prosecution begins. Three panel members ask to be allowed to respond to questions in a private fashion. As a result of the time it takes to empty the courtroom and conduct the prosecution's private voir dire, defense counsel is left with 10 minutes for his voir dire. Prior to starting his questioning, defense counsel asks the court to extend the time for defense voir dire.
How should the judge rule?
- A. Extend the time allowed defense counsel by at least ten minutes in the interests of fairness to both sides.
- Answer A is correct! As noted in State v. Martinez, 99 N.M. 353, 357 (1983), the extent of voir dire is left to the sound discretion of the trial court, limited only by essential demands of fairness. Since the prosecution's voir dire and the need to clear the courtroom consumed the bulk of the originally allotted time, fairness supports allowing defense counsel additional time.
- B. Keep to the original 45 minutes, thus allowing 10 minutes to defense counsel, to maintain control over the court's docket for that day.
- Answer B is incorrect. As noted in State v. Martinez, 99 N.M. 353, 357 (1983), the extent of voir dire is left to the sound discretion of the trial court, limited only by essential demands of fairness. The judge's control over her docket is a valid concern. However, because fairness should be the primary concern at least 10 additional minutes should be allowed defense counsel. Please select another answer.
- C. Keep to the original 45 minutes, thus allowing 10 minutes to defense counsel and advise the parties that the court will step in thereafter and ask any remaining relevant voir dire questions.
- Answer C is incorrect. As provided for in UJI 14-120 "Voir Dire of Jurors by Court," the judge can ask questions during the process. However, the judge and defense counsel might differ regarding what constitutes a relevant inquiry for the judge following the scant 10 minutes allowed to counsel. To abide by the "essential demands of fairness, State v. Martinez, 99 N.M. 353, 357 (1983), the more reasonable approach would be to allow defense counsel additional time. Please select another answer.