“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.