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In South Carolina, voir dire in a civil trial typically lasts 30 minutes, a breeze compared with 16 hours in Connecticut. If you’re trying a case in Rhode Island, there’s a good chance you will question jurors individually, a rare occurrence in North Carolina. And count on Arizona’s jurors to submit questions to witnesses � but don’t waste your time worrying about this if your trial is in Mississippi. Such differences are among the findings of a new report, the first of its kind to examine jury practices from state to state. Released last week, the report was produced by the National Center for State Courts in Williamsburg, Va., and the State Justice Institute in Alexandria, Va. The report included responses to surveys from more than 11,000 attorneys and judges, and court officials in more than 1,500 counties. The length of the jury-selection process is one of many factors that lawyers may need to be aware of, said Paula Hannaford-Agor, director of the Center for Jury Studies in Williamsburg and one of the report’s three co-authors. “A huge host of practices vary greatly and if you take someone out of one culture and drop them in another, they really would be quite taken and astounded,” she said. That leads back to Connecticut’s 16-hour voir dires. Sixty-three percent of Connecticut respondents said jurors were questioned individually at sidebar or in chambers, which was behind only Rhode Island and Maryland. North Carolina is least likely to question jurors separately, reporting it for fewer than 3% of cases. Jon Schoenhorn, a Hartford attorney who is president of the Connecticut Criminal Defense Lawyers Association, said voir dire can often take as long or longer than a trial in the Nutmeg State. “It’s a cumbersome process, but it ensures fairness,” said Schoenhorn, who estimated his longest jury impaneling took two months for a capital murder case. “It’s the only way to get true answers and the only way you get jurors to speak fairly.” South Carolina is most likely to have a judge-dominated voir dire, which surprised one New York lawyer when he recently tried a fraud case in a federal district court in Columbia, S.C. “You don’t really get to interact with jurors or ask them questions,” said Thomas F. Liotti of Law Offices of Thomas F. Liotti in Garden City, N.Y. “I think lawyers need to be more involved in the voir dire process.” Lawyers may receive varying amounts of information about jurors before jury selection depending on which state they are in. Six states � Alaska, California, Colorado, North Carolina, Oklahoma and Utah � provide attorneys with very little access before voir dire, while Hawaii, Minnesota, Massachusetts and New Hampshire are most likely to give out juror information, which could include marital status or number of minor children. Pamela Wood, Massachusetts’ jury commissioner, said that the finding was among many she found useful since it shows what other states are doing. “I always felt we were quite conservative and resisting pressure to release and collect more information on jurors,” she said. “This is helpful in showing that if you don’t like what we’re doing in Massachusetts, consider what you’d get in other states where you’d not be able to get this information, such as address or marital status.” From state to state, jurors are also compensated differently. New Mexico, for example, has a flat daily rate of $41.20. In California, jurors get $15 a day starting with the second day of service. 16,000 jury trials per year With about 16,000 jury trials per year, California has the highest number in the nation, while Vermont and Wyoming have the fewest, with 126 trials annually. Nationwide, more than a third of Americans can expect to be impaneled as jurors at some point in their lifetimes, the report found. The survey found that more than half of the courts reported some jury improvement efforts in the past five years, with upgrading of technology as the most common focus, followed by decreasing jurors’ nonresponse rates. Examples of new technology include Arizona, where three-quarters of courts reported using video during orientation; Iowa, where more than half of the courts said prospective jurors check their reporting status online; and California, which has an initiative to equip jury assembly rooms with Internet access. In New York, major trial courts now have wireless Internet and the state has been working on making laptop computers available to jurors, said Alissa Krauss, research director for the Office of Research in the New York State Unified Court System. There is also an effort to automate the disqualification process so that those who don’t qualify for jury duty can provide that information online or by telephone, which is currently not the case, she said.

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