Law and Society

Every defendant has the right of due process of law. The right to be tried by the jury is also the right of every defendant facing criminal charge. These rights include the proper application of the laws that supports his claim on due process. The jury system was a replica of the laws in England such that if there are developments of the English law, the jury system could be affected. There were different pronouncements of precedents as well as landmark cases that tackle the issue of non-unanimity rule. However, the last two cases touching those issues are that of Apocada v.

Oregon and Johnson v. Louisiana which were decided on the same dates. The question to be decided is that if a jury verdict of guilty is not unanimous, does that mean that there was reasonable doubt? If so, does that mean that non-unanimous verdicts in criminal prosecutions violate the Sixth Amendment to the United States Constitution? The answer of this question was discussed in the aforementioned cases. If a jury verdict of guilty is less than unanimous it does not mean that there was reasonable doubt.

As long as the case was decided by the jury legally and without deceitful actions, being less than unanimous is not material and acceptable. Hence, the sixth amendment of the Constitution was not vilated for that matter. Practically, if a jury verdict of guilty is not unanimous, it still means that there was reasonable doubt. On the legal side, there are so many developments of the unanimous rule in cases of jury votes. In the year 1979, there was a final visitation of the issue of jury size and unanimity by the Supreme Court (Linder, 2008, p. 1). That was done in the case of Burch v.

Louisiana wherein the Supreme Court decided that Louisiana’s law which permitted criminal convictions on 5 to 1 votes by a six-person jury violated the Sixth Amendment right, of which this was incorporated through the Fourteenth Amendment, of defendants to a trial by jury (Linder, 2008, p. 1) It was meant to implement that if a jury is to be as small as six, the Court said that, the verdict has to be unanimous (Linder, 2008, p. 1). The right of the defendant to have a fair trial is violated when its conviction is not decided by unanimous jury votes.

In connection with that, the case of Apocada v. Oregon was decided by the Supreme Court to follow the lead of England by finding that unanimity is not constitutionally required (“Convincing the Innocent: The Inferiority of Unanimous Jury Verdicts under Strategic Voting”). These developments of the unanimity rule pave the way of fighting for the rights of a defendant. It must be remembered that, for a defendant to be convicted or held guilty of a crime committed, proof beyond reasonable doubt must be established.

If there has been reasonable doubt as to the guilt of the accused or the defendant, it should be beyond that just to convict the same. It would be against the right of the defendant if he would be placed in a situation wherein his right to proper hearing and trial in accordance with law would be jeopardized. Therefore, in all proceedings of the courts of justice the primary concern must be justice and equity in favour of the oppressed. The law must be liberally construed in favour of the oppressed litigants and strictly against technical matters.