voir dire \voir dire\ (?). [of., to say the truth, fr. l. verus true + dicere to say.] (law) an oath administered to a witness, usually before being sworn in chief, requiring him to speak the truth, or make true answers in reference to matters inquired of, to ascertain his competency to give evidence. --greenleaf. ld. abinger.
Voir dire is a legal phrase that refers to a variety of procedures connected with jury trials. It originally referred to an oath taken by jurors to tell the truth , i.e., to say what is true, what is objectively accurate or subjectively honest, or both. It comes from the Anglo-Norman language.
When a witness is supposed to have an interest in the cause, the party against whom he is called has the choice to prove such interest by calling another witness to that fact, or be may require the witness produced to be sworn on his voir dire as to whether he has an interest in the cause, or not, but the party against whom he is called will not be allowed to have recourse to both methods to prove the witness interest. If the witness answers he has no interest, he is competent, his oath being conclusive; if he swears he has an interest, he will be rejected.
Though this is the rule established beyond the power of the courts to change, it seems not very satisfactory. The witness is sworn on his voir dire to ascertain whether he has an interest, which would disqualify him, because he would be tempted to perjure himself, if he testified when interested. But when he is asked whether he has such an interest, if he is dishonest and anxious to be sworn in the case, he will swear falsely he has none, and his answer being conclusive, he will be admitted as competent; if, on the contrary, he swears truly he has an interest, when he knows that will exclude him, he is told that for being thus honest, he must be rejected.
VOIR DIRE - Fr. "to speak the truth." The process of interviewing prospective jurors. Pronounced "vwa dear." The process by which judges and lawyers select a petit jury from among those eligible to serve, by questioning them to determine knowledge of the facts of the case and a willingness to decide the case only on the evidence presented in court.
This entry contains material from Bouvier's Legal Dictionary, a work published in the 1850's.