Barajas v. State

In Barajas v. State, 93 S.W.3d 36, 38 (Tex. Crim. App. 2002), the defendant proposed asking the venire members whether they "could be impartial in an indecency case involving a victim who was eight to ten years old or, in the alternative, a victim who was nine years old." 93 S.W.3d at 38. The court examined various reasons the defendant may have sought to ask that question, and concluded that the question constituted a global fishing expedition. Id. at 41-42. (comparing cases in which questions were "narrowly tailored to an issue relevant to the case" with cases that failed to "seek particular information from a particular panel member" and instead "presented a general topic for discussion" in concluding that appellant's question was too vague and broad). The Court reviewed the propriety of counsel's attempt "to ask venire members if they could be fair and impartial in a case in which the victim was nine years old." 93 S.W.3d at 37. The Court began its analysis by briefly addressing two types of improper voir dire questions: (1) an improper commitment question under Standefer v. State, 59 S.W.3d 177 (Tex. Crim. App. 2001); (2) a "question that is so vague or broad in nature as to constitute a global fishing expedition." Id. at 38-39. After examining different reasons counsel may have sought to ask the question at issue, the Court concluded that the question constituted a "global fishing expedition" which the trial court was within its discretion to prevent. Id. at 41-42. One of the potential rationales for the challenged question in Barajas was "to determine whether venire members would consider the victim's age during the guilt phase of the trial." Id. at 39. The Court stated: "If a venire member stated that she would resolve the appellant's guilt on the basis of the victim's age, that venire member would be challengeable for cause. But that is not the question that the appellant asked. The trial court may, within its discretion, require that parties phrase questions in a way that is precise enough to glean relevant information from the venire member's answer." Id.