Do you believe a jury decision in a criminal case should be unanimous or not?
8 Answers | Add Yours
In my opinion, verdicts in jury trials should be unanimous in order for a defendant to be found guilty. I do not think they would need to be unanimous for the defendant to be acquitted.
My reasoning for this is that a defendant is supposed to be found guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. It makes sense to me that unanimity would be required for this. After all, if there is no reasonable doubt of the person's guilt, it seems likely that all of the jurors would see that and would therefore be unanimous. If there are jurors who do not agree, there is probably a reasonable doubt.
I can tell you from personal experience that the unanimous requirement for jury verdicts is frustrating. I once sat on a jury in an attempted murder case, and we were in deliberations for three straight days, with 8 voting to convict and 4 voting to acquit, and nobody would budge. Finally, the judge declared a mistrial, and all of our efforts and time away from work and family (about two weeks) accomplished little and another trial was ordered.
Despite that frustration, I do believe in the unanimous jury verdict. In a criminal case that actually goes to trial, we are talking about a person's freedom or a victim's sense of justice. I think it pays to be as sure as humans can be that they are convicting the right person, or acquitting them forever of that charge before we send them to jail or set them free, and the collective wisdom of the group of twelve regarding the evidence minimizes the personal agendas and biases of any one of the twelve. If, in the end, we can't be sure, then it is best to give another group of 12 a shot at it.
Convincing all 12 jurors also puts an added requirement on the police and prosecutors to do their job well and within the law, which safeguards the rest of us as well.
I think #3 makes a great point in highlighting the often frustrating realities and difficulties in trying to gain a unanimous jury verdict - something that is not easy or necessarily valid. However, I do agree that the ideal of a unanimous jury verdict is something to aim for - let us not forget that often the decisions that a jury will make will have an incredible impact on the defendant - for good or for worse, and thus it is worth the effort and the time to make sure that they make good and wise decisions.
I've always wanted to be on a jury; but, sadly, my number has never come up. I'm sure it's frustrating when much is at stake and emotions are running high. I confess I haven't given this much thought--though I will now--but it does seem to me that the higher the stakes the more necessary it becomes to have a unanimous jury. I know that puts us back around to the frustrations and passions; however, when more is at risk it's better to have unanimity. Good question.
I think that if the jury selection process is carried out correctly that the unanimous verdict is great. If you are looking at putting another human being behind bars for a significant amount of time it should be a unanimous decision.
I've served on several juries, and our verdicts ended up being unanimous. However, I prefer a majority ruling over a unanimous verdict, since it is always possible that one, single holdout has ulterior motives or an unrealistic outlook on the case. I think that an 11-1 vote would be a satisfactory and reasonable outcome for prosecution; ditto for a 7-5 vote.
I think unanimous juries are becoming more and more a thing of the past as the law and situations become more complex. This allows for great disparity in the way jurors understand what they are supposed to do and take their oaths very seriously to fulfill their obligations as a jury member.
This is an interesting question. I think it is possible for jurors to be bullied and bought since guilty verdicts must be unanimous. It is easy to muscle your way to an acquittal than a conviction. I would like to believe that all jurors begin with their hearts in the right place, but enough days or months of missing work and being stuck with 12 people can take its toll.
Join to answer this question
Join a community of thousands of dedicated teachers and students.Join eNotes