Re: Juries

Warrl kyree Tale'sedrin (
Wed, 25 Mar 1998 21:55:13 +0000

> From: "Mark D. Fulwiler" <>

> "Warrl kyree Tale'sedrin" <> wrote:
> > I know I don't like the requirement for unanimous verdicts. A 5/6
> > majority should be sufficient for a guilty verdict, or a simple
> > majority for a not-guilty verdict. (However, in capital crimes, the
> > death penalty *should* *not* be an option unless the verdict was
> > unanimous.)
> Isn't the idea of unanimous verdicts to provide an extra measure of
> protection to minimize the number of innocent people sent to prison?

Yes, but I think it's overdone in a situation where the government
mandates racism, and should be tossed, but in a manner that is
either balanced or weighted in favor of the defendant.

Note both sides:

For a guilty verdict, a 5/6 majority
For a not-guilty verdict, a simple majority.

With a six-person jury, there are seven possible vote outcomes
(ignoring abstentions): anywhere from 0-6 to 6-0. Today, exactly one
outcome results in acquittal, and exactly one results in conviction;
the other five result in mistrial and the possibility of having to do
it all over again.

With my proposal, it is true that two outcomes result in conviction;
but THREE result in acquittal and only two result in mistrial and a

On a twelve-person jury, there are thirteen possible vote outcomes.
Exactly one results in acquittal, and exactly one results in
conviction, with eleven leading to possible retrials. With my
proposal three would result in conviction and six in acquittal.

> A
> 5/6 requirement would send more guilty people to jail, but also more
> innocent ones.

A simple majority for acquittal would send more innocent people home
without having to fret about a retrial.

> As it is, even unanimous juries make many mistakes. A lot
> of convictions are overturned after new evidence comes out after the
> trial.

I don't consider that a mistake on the jury's part. If there's an
error, it's on the part of the investigators for not finding that
evidence in the first place, or on the part of the people who had the
evidence for not bringing it forward sooner. The jury cannot be held
at fault for not considering the unknown.

> Considering that most criminal defendants have to go against all of the
> resources of the state with one overworked public defender, I don't want
> to make it any easier for the state.
> Also, a 5/6 requirement would make jury nullification more difficult.

This is unfortunately true. My response is outside the scope of
this particular proposal; but I'll state it anyway: a complete
revamping of the way the court treats the jury, including but not
limited to informing the jury IN ADVANCE of the trial that it is
their DUTY to judge the law as well as the defendant. Legislation
should not deal with exceptional cases; the courts should in every
case evaluate whether justice is served by applying the law to the
specific case. If a law is in itself unjust, the answer will rarely
be "yes".

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