“Should Jury Verdicts Always be Unanimous in a Criminal Trial? ” The inadequacies of our government and our judicial system have long been a subject for debate, and now many are debating why unanimous jury verdicts are required in criminal trials. In United States v. Lopez they say: A rule which insists on unanimity furthers the deliberative process by requiring the minority view to be examined and if possible, accepted or rejected by the entire jury. The requirement of jury unanimity thus has a precise effect on the fact-finding process, one which gives particular significance and conclusiveness to the jury’s verdict.
This is the perfect way of describing the democracy of our judicial system that was instilled upon us by our founding fathers and why jury verdicts in criminal trials should always be unanimous. There are many arguments for what the rule should be. Consider the money, effort and release of guilty people because a crafty lawyer twists facts to persuade just one of 12 people that there is something wrong with the case? However, these costs seem to be outweighed by the value we gain from the unanimous verdict system.
It really seems like a small price to pay when the alternative is potentially locking away an innocent person which is like stealing someone’s life. The requirement structures deliberations in ways that are consistent with our democratic ideals and enhances the sense of legitimacy that attaches to criminal verdicts. (Bove, 259-260) One would think that if it were difficult to achieve unanimity that the jurors would only have to continue deliberating the case. This would give the jurors a greater insight into other sides and possibly even help them gain a greater perspective on the subject.
This could lead to jurors changing their vote, but it would generally be for the better because the more insight you have minus anyone’s possible prejudices, the less likely a group is of making a poor decision. A process as analytical and thorough as this reduces the likelihood of convicting an innocent defendant. Another case against unanimous jury’s is the verdicts under strategic voting. The incentive to vote strategically arises because a juror’s vote only matters when a vote is pivotal and because the information possessed by other jurors is relevant for a juror’s decision.
(Feddersen, 23) Yet, some of these cases are so severe that the verdict essentially results in either life or death. Tell me that most people can personally condemn a fellow man to death. They balk at the idea that they are responsible for taking another’s life. So when the decision is being made where the result could be so cruel, you have a duty to your fellow man not to strategically vote. Our nation’s founders based our judicial system with the ideals of shaping moral standards and promoting social justice. It is one of the most comprehensive, fair, and democratic systems developed.
For over 200 years the Sixth Amendment to the U. S. Constitution has guaranteed all criminal defendants “the right to a speedy and public trial by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed. ” This is our nation’s history, and this is our history. Every system has its flaws, but who is to say that a jury of 10-2 wouldn’t be coerced or strategically voting as well. There will always be people who are corrupt and undermine our legal system, but it is our responsibility as American’s to be fair and kind to our fellow man. The jury itself is so much more important than most people realize.
Being on a jury is one of the most sacred trusts and privileges in the tradition of our legal system because almost anyone charged with a serious criminal offence can choose a jury trial, and when they do, they are essentially putting their life into your hands. Your decision as a juror could determine whether a young kid in your area who is charged with second degree murder because he was with his friends at the wrong place at the wrong time goes to prison for the rest of his life. These decisions should not be made lightly, and that is why jurors should debate thoroughly.
It is a juror’s civic duty to make their vote with the most careful considerations. The requirement of a unanimous jury is important for reasons that many may not immediately presume. When I discussed this subject with multiple people to obtain an outsiders point of view, I learned that a lot of people are quick to jump on the media band wagons with governmental and judicial inadequacies. Our nation should remember what one of our founding fathers, Thomas Jefferson, said “The care of human life and happiness, and not their destruction, is the first and only legitimate object of good government.
” Our government, while not perfect, is set out with a checks and balances system that uphold the highest form of our personal rights by believing that all are innocent until proven guilty. When an individual is charged with a crime, he or she becomes a criminal defendant. The United States Constitution provides these criminal defendants a number of rights that limit the fashion in which the government can investigate, prosecute, and penalize criminal behavior. These include, but are not limited to, the right to a speedy trial, the right to an impartial judge, and the right to an impartial jury.
Criminal defendants have the right to a public trial. This ensures that the government will not carry out any hearings in secret that may violate the individual’s constitutional rights. There are times when the court will hold a closed hearing to protect the identity of a victim, such as a minor. A criminal defendant also has the right to be tried by a jury of his or her peers. The type of jury varies from state to states but these juries are made up of members of the community that have been randomly designated by the court and chosen by attorney for both the prosecution and the defense.
This leads the criminal defendant into the right to ask for a swift trial. The most intricate premises of the criminal justice system are that when justice is delayed, it is denied. The right to a swift and speedy trial is essential in a structure that places equality and integrity above all else (FindLaw, n. d. ). Diligent trials promote civility within the criminal justice system. A speedy trial is one that is without any postponements. The Sixth Amendment guarantees all individuals this right after he or she is charged with a crime or arrested and confined on a criminal charge.
In order to prevent an individual from sitting in prison for long periods of time before guilty is established, this right protects the defendant. The court does not guarantee any criminal defendant a trial within a set timeframe; however, this right assures judicial efficiency and prevents the prosecution from using any type of tactical stalling techniques. The trial in the very centerpiece of the criminal procedure and it is extremely vital that judges be the impartial decision makers.
The expression “unbiased or impartial judge” has not neutral, nonpartisan judge comes from the due process clause of the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments (UnitedNations, 2003). Judges play a variety of roles. He or she will assess the evidence presented, interpret the law, and are the authority on how hearings and trials unfold within their courtrooms. Within the United States, the known criminal justice system is adversarial. This means that within the criminal justice system cases are challenges between opposing sides. This helps to ensure that evidence and legal arguments are, and always will be, present.
The judge remains at the tip of this melee, administering an impartial assessment of the data and how the legislation body of the state applies to those facts. Even the very basic of laws require that any judge must exclude himself or herself in a case in which he or she has considerable interest, has formerly been either the prosecution or the defense attorney, been a witness in the previous, or is a family member of or has a connection with any person in the proceeding, or the attorney for either the prosecution or the defense as it would render it improper to sit in judgment at the trial or any other criminal proceeding.
Almost all civil cases, and some criminal cases, are overseen by a judge with the jury being not present. The judge will then decide if any of the evidence presented is believable and if/which of the persons called to witness is telling the truth. The judge will then applies the appropriate laws to determine if the civil claim has been established or if there is proof beyond a reasonable doubt, in criminal cases, to find the accused guilty. If convicted of a crime, the defendant will have the judge pass a sentence that will impose a punishment that can range from a simple fine to a jail term, depending upon the severity of the crime.
When deciding civil cases, the judge will determine if the claim is credible and then determine damages, grant an decree, order, or some other form of compensation to the victim, unless a trial by jury has been elected. Every individual has the right, in civil and criminal cases, to have his or her case listened to and decided by an impartial jury. The due process clauses of the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments guarantee that when an individual is charged with a crime, there is a guarantee of the right to a fair trial by an impartial jury (TheFreeDictionary, n.
d. ). This basically means that whatever circumstances surrounding either the civil or the criminal trial must not be such that the jury can be unduly influenced. If a jury is unduly influenced, the publicity is so massive and intense that it may become prejudicial to either side. To control this type of prejudicial publicity and avoid the possibility that the trial may be tainted, the judge may order certain steps to be followed. A change of venue, or place, of the trial to somewhere else within the same county or state can be ordered.
The judge can order that the jurors be sequestered during the trial to strictly control any contact with the outside world that any of the jurors may have while the trial is taking place. Continuing, or postponing, the case to a future date to settle any outside influences there may be and/or the judge may issue a “gag order”. This would prohibit those parties that are in the trial from releasing any type of information about the trial to the press or providing any comments about the trial in a public forum.
All of these components are critically important parts of the process that assists in resolving a great majority of all criminal cases. The essence of due process safeguards the balance between an aggressive government and concern for acceptable security for the individual. What might seem like a balance shift in the procedural scale in favor of the defendant is nothing more than an extra effort by the judicial court system to put in place these steps to make sure that there is not a tilt in the procedural scale in favor of either side.
REFERENCES FindLaw, n. d. The Right to a Speedy Jury Trial. Retrieved from http://criminal. findlaw. com/criminal-rights/right-to-a-speedy-jury-trial. html TheFreeDictionary, n. d. The Right to Trial by an Impartial Jury. Retrieved from http://legal-dictionary. thefreedictionary. com/Right+to+Trial+by+an+Impartial+Jury United Nations, (2003). Human Rights in the Administration of Justice: A Manual on Human Rights for Judges, Prosecutors and Lawyers. : United Nations Publications.