Do you think it's realistic to expect twelve people to agree on any verdict? Why or why not?

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drmonica's profile pic

Posted on (Answer #2)

Yes, I do think that twelve people, if properly sequestered, can reach a unanimous verdict in the United States. We are taught in school about the principles of democracy and civics, and those who show up for jury duty, I believe, take their responsibility very seriously.

Coming to consensus on a jury verdict is not simply a matter of opinion; jurors are expected to apply the law to the facts. There is truly not a lot of room for opinion in doing this.

The jury system has worked since the days of ancient Rome. I think it will continue to be successful.

lynn30k's profile pic

Posted on (Answer #3)

I also think it is realistic, as long as the jurors adhere to the pledge they make to judge the case solely on the evidence presented, and the evidence is strong.

epollock's profile pic

Posted on (Answer #4)

No I don't. While the jury process as a whole is very serious and people take the role of a juror very seriously, the fact that we all have different perspectives, come from different backgrounds, and have different expectations of things makes it hard to imagine that 12 people can come to the same conclusion while looking at the same evidence.

The US Supreme Court usually doesn't have unanimous decisions in most cases, so how can you expect 12 average citizens to?

And thinking back about the recent elections, we are such a divided and polarized nation of almost 50/50, I also don't see how you can take 12 people out of that normal spectrum and ask them to come to the same conclusion.

drmonica's profile pic

Posted on (Answer #5)

The distinction between an appeals court, such as the U.S. Supreme Court, and a jury is that judges interpret and construe the spirit of the law, while juries apply the letter of the law under the guidance of a judge. The legal system has established the bifurcated processes of the judge and the jury in order to allow these two related but very different applications to be exercised.  

epollock's profile pic

Posted on (Answer #7)

The distinction between an appeals court, such as the U.S. Supreme Court, and a jury is that judges interpret and construe the spirit of the law, while juries apply the letter of the law under the guidance of a judge. The legal system has established the bifurcated processes of the judge and the jury in order to allow these two related but very different applications to be exercised.  

I have been on 3 juries in the State of Rhode Island, and not one time did we ever come up with a consensus vote.  Even when I was foreman on one of them.  The difference between movies and real life is that real life is never as glamorous. Jurors and alternates told me time after time that they did not understand any of the case and it was too difficult for them to come to any conclusion. Since the statute of limitations on my service ended at least 15 years ago, the cases were 2 hung juries at 5-5 and dismissed and the other was 6-4 in favor of defendant.

It was a typical jury that some fell asleep during deliberations and 3 voted just to get out early. Though I was the only one to have gone to law school, the process of deciding anything with 12 people is unduly stressful and almost not realistic to assume that we could have come to any unanimous decision.

If you look over appeals court cases and Supreme court cases you can see which cases the justices understood and which ones they didn't. Law school clerks write most of the legal opinions like I did for the judge that I clerked for because many cases were too technical for him.

It's almost an idealistic view that it can work, but still something to hope for. 

amy-lepore's profile pic

Posted on (Answer #8)

I have never been on a jury, but just from debating with people both in and out of the classroom, I find it hard to believe that twelve randomly chosen jurors will immediately agree on anything.  Just like the play, people must be attentive to details, want to do the right thing (and not just vote "guilty" because they have concert tickets), and work to understand the case in order to determine reasonable doubt.  Unfortunately, not everyone in our society has the same dedication to serving others as they would want to be served, nor do ethics ring true in every realm of the world. 

My belief is that it would be extremely difficult to get twelve people to agree, and if they do come to a unanimous decision, it would not be without Herculean effort.

cburr's profile pic

Posted on (Answer #9)

Bear in mind that the role of a jury is to determine what the facts were, based on the evidence.  It is a strength of the system, I believe, that the jury will consist of people with a range of experiences and perspectives.  I also feel that most people try to do a good job as jurors.

On the other hand, I think it is unreasonable to expect an average jury (of 12 or fewer) to follow all the evidence in extremely complex cases.  Although there would be pitfalls to the use of expert panels, I believe this would be appropriate in some circumstances for the more complex aspects of a case.

dbello's profile pic

Posted on (Answer #10)

I  believe those who are chosen to sit on a jury that requires a unanimous twelve jury decision, such as death penalty cases, ultimately take their responsibility seriously. However, as a realistic person I recognize that the system is not without flaws. For example, although jurors are required to render their decisions based upon the law some simply will not be able to escape their own bias regardless of where it has originated. Having said that, I remain opitmistic and have faith in our judicial system because 'A jury of your peers' is one of those precious Constitutional principles that must never be taken for granted.

speamerfam's profile pic

Posted on (Answer #11)

As an attorney who has never served on a jury, I can only speculate as to the dynamics when a jury must make a decision.  But what you might want to consider, as you address this question, is whether anyone has managed to come up with a better system.  If we were to allow judges or other kinds of experts to decide cases, each of those people would bring his or her own experiences and biases to the decision, too.  A jury of twelve can provide at least some balance to a decision.  Each acts as a counteracting force upon the experiences and biases of the other jurors. 

The issue of one's experiences and biases is being discussed right now, as the Senate considers Sotomayor as a candidate for the United States Supreme Court.  She has publicly stated that her experiences and status as a Latina inform her decisions, a statement that has been criticized in recent days.  However, every judge brings his or her own experiences and status to the courtroom, and if a defendant is unable to opt for a jury to act as a balance for decision-making, we would probably get worse justice, not better justice.

enotechris's profile pic

Posted on (Answer #12)

The question needs a bit more detail -- if you're talking about a civil case, at least in MA it's not necessary for a unanimous verdict; criminal cases, however, require complete agreement. Are other states the same?

herappleness's profile pic

Posted on (Answer #13)

An abundance of evidence, a well-organized case, a convincing argument, enough documentation to back up any cause for a motif, correlating alibis, and finding genuine witnesses all contribute to a well-informed decision, and not just a judgement based on opinion. Definitely, with all the right elements a unanimous decision can be reached.

mshurn's profile pic

Posted on (Answer #14)

I can't speak of other cultures, but in this country, it's hard to find twelve Americans who can agree on much of anything! (One of our strengths, I think.) The jury system is designed as it is because it does recognize that twelve independent jurors will not fall into lockstep; therefore, compelling evidence will be required to bring them to a shared verdict. This is as it should be. In lesser crimes, a jury does not have to reach a unanimous verdict, but in a capital case, a unanimous verdict is required. This, also, is as it should be. To convict someone of a capital crime, the evidence must be so compelling that all twelve jurors are convinced--and that sets the bar very high for the prosecution. This is a reflection of the basic American belief in the rights of each citizen in relation to his government. So, is it unrealistic to expect twelve people to agree on a verdict? No, but it is unrealistic to expect twelve people to agree on a verdict if the evidence is not strong enough to bridge the distances between their individual personalities and life experiences. That is the principle. As in every other aspect, American society works when we live up to our democratic principles, and it falls short when we don't.

krishna-agrawala's profile pic

Posted on (Answer #6)

As it is illustrated in the story Twelve Angry Men, the approach adopted by someone to convince the group has important influence of degree of consensus reached. Of course, this is subject the condition that sufficient information for convincing is available, although it may not be so apparent initially.

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