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Of the many concerns with criminal juries...

...they are unpredictable.

The decision to take a criminal case to a jury is a very tough decision. Compared to a bench trial, which occurs only in front of a judge, a criminal case in front of a jury is an entirely different ordeal. In weighing the decision to take a criminal case to a jury, one of the many concerns is the unpredictable nature of jurors.

This story out of Norfolk Circuit Court illustrates that unpredictability. PilotOnline.com: Jurors respond to reversal of murder verdict in Norfolk.

The story is somewhat complicated, but the article is well written. Basically, a Norfolk jury convicted a man of murder, then almost a year later, the judge set aside the verdict.

I am most surprised by the following statements:

One Juror said she struggled with the decision. She said she agreed to convict only after the jury foreman told her the judge could overrule their verdict if she felt they made a mistake.

. . .

At one point, she considered walking out, causing a hung jury and a possible retrial because she did not believe the prosecution had made its case, she said. 

But when the foreman told the jury that the judge could overrule a decision she thought was wrong, she was persuaded to convict Wood, she said.

(Emphasis added.)

The article accurately describes how rare it is for a judge to upset a criminal jury's verdict, and I won't repeat that description here.  

I will note, however, that the jury foreman should be ashamed of himself. He influenced a fellow juror to vote inconsistently with her beliefs and understanding of the case. Moreover, he did so with a flawed understanding of the law and in direct contradiction of the jury instructions issued by the judge.

As for the indecisive (and dishonest) juror, her lack of fortitude nearly cost a man his freedom. She should be equally ashamed.

Her ultimate fear, she said, was getting it wrong and sending an innocent man to prison. "At one point, she considered walking out, causing a hung jury and a possible retrial because she did not believe the prosecution had made its case."

No, this was not her ultimate fear. Her ultimate fear was going against the rest of the jury and not being a "team player."

And what is with the walking out to cause a mistrial? There is no need to walk out to cause a mistrial.  You simply vote according to your understanding of the case! And, since you "did not believe the prosecution had made its case," you vote NOT GUILTY!

Cowardice, plain and simple.

Categories: Criminal Defense

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