snopes.com Post new topic  New Poll  Post a reply
search | faq | forum home

  next oldest topic   next newest topic
» Hello snopes.com » SLC Central » Soapbox Derby » Jury system - Is it flawed? (Page 3)

 - UBBFriend: Email this page to someone!   This topic comprises 3 pages: 1  2  3   
Author Topic: Jury system - Is it flawed?
LeaflessMapleTree
The twelve shopping days 'til Christmas


Icon 1 posted      Profile for LeaflessMapleTree   E-mail LeaflessMapleTree   Send new private message       Edit/Delete post   Reply with quote 
Sorry to hijack the thread, but this unlikely scenario has been burning in my mind.

Let's say someone is on trial for murder. There's all sorts of very convincing evidence. There's the victim's blood all over the accused. There's video footage of the accused committing the murder. Whatever. Any competent jury would convict.

This jury doesn't. After the trial is over, everyone on the jury admits that the jury decided to acquit because, even though the evidence was extremely convincing, the accused was a "fine, upstanding white, Christian gentleman" who couldn't possibly have done it...because he was white and Christian. This was the only reason that they chose to acquit.

Is it tough noogies for the prosecution and the victim's family?

--------------------
"For me, religion is like a rhinoceros: I don't have one, and I'd really prefer not to be trampled by yours. But it is impressive, and even beautiful, and, to be honest, the world would be slightly worse off if there weren't any."
-Silas Sparkhammer

Posts: 3239 | From: Ontario, Canada | Registered: Sep 2003  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a moderator
Mr. Fed
Happy Holly Days


Icon 1 posted      Profile for Mr. Fed   Author's Homepage   E-mail Mr. Fed   Send new private message       Edit/Delete post   Reply with quote 
quote:
Originally posted by LeaflessMapleTree:
Sorry to hijack the thread, but this unlikely scenario has been burning in my mind.

Let's say someone is on trial for murder. There's all sorts of very convincing evidence. There's the victim's blood all over the accused. There's video footage of the accused committing the murder. Whatever. Any competent jury would convict.

This jury doesn't. After the trial is over, everyone on the jury admits that the jury decided to acquit because, even though the evidence was extremely convincing, the accused was a "fine, upstanding white, Christian gentleman" who couldn't possibly have done it...because he was white and Christian. This was the only reason that they chose to acquit.

Is it tough noogies for the prosecution and the victim's family?

Short answer:

Yes.

Slightly longer answer: probably yes, unless there is a federal offense the feds could go after (which, in murder cases, there rarely is). Double jeopardy would prevent an additional prosecution by the state. The separate sovereigns doctrine lets the feds prosecute based on the same facts IF there is a federal crime (as in the case of the cops who beat Rodney King.) [It usually doesn't work the other way - most states won't prosecute after the feds take a shot and miss.]


BTW, your scenario illustrates why some people don't see jury nullification as a positive thing. Dershowitz, for instance -- as hard-line a defense attorney advocate as you will find -- says that jury nullification looms larger as a tool of oppression of black people in the South than it does as a tool against unjust prosecutions.

--------------------
With occasional, half-hearted, semi-literate blogging comes great responsibility.

Posts: 1621 | From: Los Angeles | Registered: Oct 2001  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a moderator
Elkhound
It Came Upon a Midnight Clearance


Icon 1 posted      Profile for Elkhound         Edit/Delete post   Reply with quote 
quote:
Originally posted by Mr. Furious:
quote:
Originally posted by Troberg:
Say, for instance, that a guy has been a total bastard against his girlfriend, cheating on her with her sister, her mother and her poodle, has a drinking problem, has got into fights in bars repeatedly, has crashed her car while drunk, has a history as a pimp and so on. This is revealed in the trial, but he is in trial for hitting her.

IIRC, that sort of thing generally can't be introduced, though a history of domestic violence could. Something about "prior bad acts." I could be wrong about that, though - my legal experience comes primarily from TV procedurals. [Smile]
Exactly. Unless the prosecution were trying to prove that the act was a part of a pattern of behavior on the defendant's part, the judge would bar it as 'prejudicial.' (If the prosecution decided that it wanted to show a pattern crime, there would have to be an evidentiary hearing at which the jury would not be present.)

Also, if the defendant were to get up on the stand and say something like, "I would never do something like that!" the prosecution would be able to rebut by introducing evidence that oh, yes indeed he had.

If, by chance, some of that sort of evidence did improperly get through, the judge would instruct the jury to disregard it. The defense might argue that it was too late and ask for a mistrial; depending on how shocking or inflammatory the information was, the judge might or might not do so. And, if the defense thought that the evidence should have been excluded but the judge allowed it anyway and it resulted in a conviction--that is what appeals are for.

--------------------
"The bicycle is the most civilized conveyance known to man. Other forms of transport grow daily more nightmarish. Only the bicycle remains pure in heart."--Iris Murdoch

Posts: 3307 | From: Charleston, WV | Registered: Oct 2002  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a moderator
AnglsWeHvHrdOnHiRdr
Happy Xmas (Warranty Is Over)


Icon 1 posted      Profile for AnglsWeHvHrdOnHiRdr     Send new private message       Edit/Delete post   Reply with quote 
quote:
Originally posted by Mr. Fed:
quote:
Originally posted by LeaflessMapleTree:
Sorry to hijack the thread, but this unlikely scenario has been burning in my mind.

Let's say someone is on trial for murder. There's all sorts of very convincing evidence. There's the victim's blood all over the accused. There's video footage of the accused committing the murder. Whatever. Any competent jury would convict.

This jury doesn't. After the trial is over, everyone on the jury admits that the jury decided to acquit because, even though the evidence was extremely convincing, the accused was a "fine, upstanding white, Christian gentleman" who couldn't possibly have done it...because he was white and Christian. This was the only reason that they chose to acquit.

Is it tough noogies for the prosecution and the victim's family?

Short answer:

Yes.

Slightly longer answer: probably yes, unless there is a federal offense the feds could go after (which, in murder cases, there rarely is). Double jeopardy would prevent an additional prosecution by the state. The separate sovereigns doctrine lets the feds prosecute based on the same facts IF there is a federal crime (as in the case of the cops who beat Rodney King.) [It usually doesn't work the other way - most states won't prosecute after the feds take a shot and miss.]


BTW, your scenario illustrates why some people don't see jury nullification as a positive thing. Dershowitz, for instance -- as hard-line a defense attorney advocate as you will find -- says that jury nullification looms larger as a tool of oppression of black people in the South than it does as a tool against unjust prosecutions.

Mr. Fed, one instruction the jury I was on was given is that the jury, and the jury alone, is responsible for interpreting the law as it applied to that particular case. Does that hold true for other states, as well? What about the federal court system?

--------------------
"When a stupid man is doing something he is ashamed of, he always declares that it is his duty."--George Bernard Shaw

Posts: 19266 | From: Nashville, TN | Registered: Jun 2002  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a moderator
Mr. Fed
Happy Holly Days


Icon 1 posted      Profile for Mr. Fed   Author's Homepage   E-mail Mr. Fed   Send new private message       Edit/Delete post   Reply with quote 
Well, it's the opposite of federal and California instructions, which make it clear that the judge determines and instructs on the law and the jury applies the law to the facts, of which it is the sole judge.

--------------------
With occasional, half-hearted, semi-literate blogging comes great responsibility.

Posts: 1621 | From: Los Angeles | Registered: Oct 2001  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a moderator
AnglsWeHvHrdOnHiRdr
Happy Xmas (Warranty Is Over)


Icon 1 posted      Profile for AnglsWeHvHrdOnHiRdr     Send new private message       Edit/Delete post   Reply with quote 
Ahhh...interesting.

Thanks!

--------------------
"When a stupid man is doing something he is ashamed of, he always declares that it is his duty."--George Bernard Shaw

Posts: 19266 | From: Nashville, TN | Registered: Jun 2002  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a moderator
Malruhn
The "Was on Sale" Song


Icon 1 posted      Profile for Malruhn   E-mail Malruhn   Send new private message       Edit/Delete post   Reply with quote 
I loved being on jury duty! I was called for an assault and battery trial (hubby allegedly beat his wife), and, due to total lack of interest by the other jurors, endedup being the jury foreman.

First question to the jury pool: Have you ever been convicted of a crime?

I was the only person to raise my hand. When they asked me to come up and explain in a quasi-sidebar, I just stood and said that 18 years before I was convicted of DUI after a "Congratulations for enlisting in the Army" party. I had to pay $250 and lost my license for six months. I paid my fine and got my license back, and have had a clean record since.

Both prosecution and defense were satisfied and I was chosen to sit on the jury.

The trial was only about four hours long. We got our instructions and we went back to discuss and verdictize the accused (like the new verb?).

I read the charges, the definition of the charges, and then just asked if anyone had any questions as to guilt or non-guilt. Everyone shook their heads in the negative, so I passed around little pieces of paper for secret votes. When I had them all (unviewed), I asked if anyone had any reason to possibly change their vote. Again all were negative, so I counted.

100% not-guilty.

It took under five minutes... so we decided to talk a bit about the process. This little old lady on the panel said that the guy was a dirty, bad man and needed to be in jail. Everyone just froze, as we had voted - but she went on to say that he wasn't guilty of THIS beating, but she felt that he probably beat his wife on a regular basis, and probably had committed other crimes - and needed to be in jail.

We all laughed, because we all agreed. OH but he seemed just slimey and fit in a whole bunch of stereotypes of "about to be a convict" type of person.

After the verdict was read in court, the prosecution and defense asked us to stay for a bit so they could ask us questions. They both agreed with us as well... and they both said that he would probably be arrested again within a month or so on similar charges.

All in all, it was a great experience, though the evil judge read the verdict - he didn't let ME read it like on TV shows. Bastage! I thought it was fair to all involved, and handled well.

I think there is more chance of bias and problems in jury trials than in just judge-adjudicated trials, though. If I have a bias against a party or group, I could stonewall against them and deadlock a jury. There's a better chance to find a person like that in a party of twelve than in a party of one...

--------------------
Opinions aren't excuses to remain ignorant about subjects, nor are they excuses to never examine one's beliefs & prejudices...

Babies are like tattoos. You see other peoples' & they're cool, but yours is never as good & you can't get rid of it.

Posts: 5622 | From: Jax, Florida | Registered: Nov 2003  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a moderator
Pogue Ma-humbug
Happy Christmas (Malls are Open)


Icon 1 posted      Profile for Pogue Ma-humbug   E-mail Pogue Ma-humbug   Send new private message       Edit/Delete post   Reply with quote 
quote:
Originally posted by Mr. Fed:
Well, it's the opposite of federal and California instructions, which make it clear that the judge determines and instructs on the law and the jury applies the law to the facts, of which it is the sole judge.

It's the same in Kentucky.

Pogue

--------------------
Let's drink to the causes in your life:
Your family, your friends, the union, your wife.

Posts: 11325 | From: Kentucky | Registered: Nov 2000  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a moderator
Troberg
Angels Wii Have Heard on High


Icon 1 posted      Profile for Troberg     Send new private message       Edit/Delete post   Reply with quote 
Don't forget probabilites. If enough juries are selected, it's probably that a certain percentage of them will consist if biased idiots. You can't fool the laws of probability in the long run.

With a judge handling it, there will at least be some quality control.

--------------------
/Troberg

Posts: 4360 | From: Borlänge, Sweden | Registered: Nov 2005  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a moderator
pob14
Jingle Bell Hock


Icon 1 posted      Profile for pob14     Send new private message       Edit/Delete post   Reply with quote 
quote:
Originally posted by Pogue Ma-humbug:
quote:
Originally posted by Mr. Fed:
Well, it's the opposite of federal and California instructions, which make it clear that the judge determines and instructs on the law and the jury applies the law to the facts, of which it is the sole judge.

It's the same in Kentucky.

Pogue

And Illinois.

I just wish I'd come earlier to this thread, so I could have said everything Pogue and Mr. Fed said and you'd all think I was the smart one. [Big Grin]

I've had some remarkably intelligent and perceptive juries, and some not-so-smart ones. Remarkably, the first kind were always on cases I won, and the latter on cases I lost. [fish]

Seriously, what always hurts the most is when they say - and I've had this a couple of times: "We know he was guilty, but there just wasn't proof." Gol-durned people, taking that "reasaonable doubt" thing seriously!

--------------------
Patrick

Posts: 576 | From: Illinois | Registered: Dec 2002  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a moderator
AnglsWeHvHrdOnHiRdr
Happy Xmas (Warranty Is Over)


Icon 1 posted      Profile for AnglsWeHvHrdOnHiRdr     Send new private message       Edit/Delete post   Reply with quote 
quote:
Originally posted by Troberg:
Don't forget probabilites. If enough juries are selected, it's probably that a certain percentage of them will consist if biased idiots. You can't fool the laws of probability in the long run.

With a judge handling it, there will at least be some quality control.

What gives you that impression? Judges who have lifetime appointment would not be beholden to anything that didn't strike their fancy.

And, again, jurors' names are a part of the public record; there is that incentive to do a good job.

--------------------
"When a stupid man is doing something he is ashamed of, he always declares that it is his duty."--George Bernard Shaw

Posts: 19266 | From: Nashville, TN | Registered: Jun 2002  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a moderator
HazyCosmicJive
The First USA Noel


Icon 1 posted      Profile for HazyCosmicJive     Send new private message       Edit/Delete post   Reply with quote 
quote:
Originally posted by Malruhn:
verdictize

You mean, "judge"? [Wink]

--------------------
Suddenly she realizes that amongst a crazy drunken schoolmarm, a navy swim instructor with a food fetish, a southern hick farmer, a porn star turned used car dealer, and a horny ex-football player, she won't be this strange outsider.

Posts: 701 | From: Colorado | Registered: Dec 2000  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a moderator
Mad Jay
Let There Be PCs on Earth


Icon 1 posted      Profile for Mad Jay     Send new private message       Edit/Delete post   Reply with quote 
quote:
Originally posted by Troberg:
Don't forget probabilites. If enough juries are selected, it's probably that a certain percentage of them will consist if biased idiots. You can't fool the laws of probability in the long run.

With a judge handling it, there will at least be some quality control.

Well, if you playing the probability game, then probably a certain percentage of judges will consist of corrupt a-holes. Is the probability of a corrupt judge lower than the probability of more than half of the jury consisting of biased idiots? i don't think so

--------------------
Nico Sasha
In between my father's fields;And the citadels of the rule; Lies a no-man's land which I must cross; To find my stolen jewel.

Posts: 4912 | From: VA | Registered: Jul 2003  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a moderator
Steve Eisenberg
The "Was on Sale" Song


Icon 1 posted      Profile for Steve Eisenberg   E-mail Steve Eisenberg   Send new private message       Edit/Delete post   Reply with quote 
quote:
Originally posted by AnglsWeHvHrdOnHiRdr:
Judges who have lifetime appointment would not be beholden to anything that didn't strike their fancy.

Hmm. So should we expect to see systematic differences between lifetime appointed federal judges and mostly elected state judges?

Looking around the internet, I found strong evidence that federal judges are more lenient than federal juries.

I am having a hard time finding similar statistics for state courts. This article, based on a small sample of mostly big city state trials, finds the judges to be a bit more conviction prone than the juries, the opposite of the federal situation. I am not impressed by the methodology of this second study. Still, you could say it supports the idea that elected judges will be tougher on crime.

--------------------
"Hillel says yes, naturally, and Shammai says no, and Maimonides is perplexed, and what do I know?"
Julius Lester

Posts: 5780 | From: Suburban Philadelphia, Pennsylvania | Registered: Oct 2001  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a moderator
Steve Eisenberg
The "Was on Sale" Song


Icon 1 posted      Profile for Steve Eisenberg   E-mail Steve Eisenberg   Send new private message       Edit/Delete post   Reply with quote 
quote:
Originally posted by Mad Jay:
Well, if you playing the probability game, then probably a certain percentage of judges will consist of corrupt a-holes. Is the probability of a corrupt judge lower than the probability of more than half of the jury consisting of biased idiots? i don't think so

What about the possibility that a biased judge will skillfully influence the jury to rule the way he would?

Just one judge is a fairness issue even with a jury. We should have three-judge panels for all but the most minor offenses.

--------------------
"Hillel says yes, naturally, and Shammai says no, and Maimonides is perplexed, and what do I know?"
Julius Lester

Posts: 5780 | From: Suburban Philadelphia, Pennsylvania | Registered: Oct 2001  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a moderator
AnglsWeHvHrdOnHiRdr
Happy Xmas (Warranty Is Over)


Icon 1 posted      Profile for AnglsWeHvHrdOnHiRdr     Send new private message       Edit/Delete post   Reply with quote 
quote:
Originally posted by Steve Eisenberg:
quote:
Originally posted by AnglsWeHvHrdOnHiRdr:
Judges who have lifetime appointment would not be beholden to anything that didn't strike their fancy.

Hmm. So should we expect to see systematic differences between lifetime appointed federal judges and mostly elected state judges?

Looking around the internet, I found strong evidence that federal judges are more lenient than federal juries.

I am having a hard time finding similar statistics for state courts. This article, based on a small sample of mostly big city state trials, finds the judges to be a bit more conviction prone than the juries, the opposite of the federal situation. I am not impressed by the methodology of this second study. Still, you could say it supports the idea that elected judges will be tougher on crime.

I guess I am not sure what the relevance of that is, but, is interesting, nonetheless.

--------------------
"When a stupid man is doing something he is ashamed of, he always declares that it is his duty."--George Bernard Shaw

Posts: 19266 | From: Nashville, TN | Registered: Jun 2002  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a moderator
Soft Hyphen
I Saw Three Shipments


Icon 1 posted      Profile for Soft Hyphen     Send new private message       Edit/Delete post   Reply with quote 
quote:
Originally posted by Elkhound:
Also, if the defendant were to get up on the stand and say something like, "I would never do something like that!" the prosecution would be able to rebut by introducing evidence that oh, yes indeed he had.

I don't understand this "logic" or whatever it is. Evidence should be either admissible or inadmissible. What does it matter what the defendant says?

If you exclude evidence proving that the defendant did X, you're basically saying that you want the jury to think that he didn't do X. So if he says he didn't, what's wrong? Wasn't that the point?

Maybe I am misunderstanding the whole concept. For whatever reason evidence is excluded, isn't the point to have the trial proceed exactly as if the evidence never existed? So if the defendant says something that contradicts it, isn't that in line with the purpose of the exclusion?

If he lied in court, you can charge him with perjury later.

Sigh. I probably should never be on a jury. I have my own ideas of how the legal system should work. I cringe when watching any courtroom drama because the procedures and reasoning seem asinine to me. If I ever get on one, I'll vote based on my own ethics rather than the law.

Posts: 78 | From: Toronto, Ontario | Registered: Nov 2006  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a moderator
Troberg
Angels Wii Have Heard on High


Icon 1 posted      Profile for Troberg     Send new private message       Edit/Delete post   Reply with quote 
quote:
What gives you that impression? Judges who have lifetime appointment would not be beholden to anything that didn't strike their fancy.

And, again, jurors' names are a part of the public record; there is that incentive to do a good job.

Our judges are not appointed for life. It's a job, like any other job. You apply for it, you can get fired if you don't do it well.

Jurors are unlikely do do enough cases to get some meaningful data on their performance, while a judge do many cases, and if found to be biased or otherwise bad, older cases can be reexamined.

quote:
Well, if you playing the probability game, then probably a certain percentage of judges will consist of corrupt a-holes. Is the probability of a corrupt judge lower than the probability of more than half of the jury consisting of biased idiots? i don't think so
Se my comment above. It's not a matter of how likely it is to happen, it's a matter of how likely it is to be spotted.

quote:
Just one judge is a fairness issue even with a jury. We should have three-judge panels for all but the most minor offenses.
In a way, that's what we have, as you can take your case to a higher instance and have it retried with another judge.

A small sidenote: There is no limitations on which cases can climb up the court ladder. It does not have to be murder, a collegue of mine went all the way up to the national court over a dispute over an apartment she was renting out to a guy who wouldn't move out when she cancelled the contract.

--------------------
/Troberg

Posts: 4360 | From: Borlänge, Sweden | Registered: Nov 2005  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a moderator
Elkhound
It Came Upon a Midnight Clearance


Icon 1 posted      Profile for Elkhound         Edit/Delete post   Reply with quote 
quote:
Originally posted by Soft Hyphen:
quote:
Originally posted by Elkhound:
Also, if the defendant were to get up on the stand and say something like, "I would never do something like that!" the prosecution would be able to rebut by introducing evidence that oh, yes indeed he had.

I don't understand this "logic" or whatever it is. Evidence should be either admissible or inadmissible. What does it matter what the defendant says?

If you exclude evidence proving that the defendant did X, you're basically saying that you want the jury to think that he didn't do X. So if he says he didn't, what's wrong? Wasn't that the point?

To a certain extent. But when one side introduces evidence to support its contention, the other may introduce evidence to refute. There is a difference between one's case-in-chief and rebuttal of the opposing side's case. The rule is, "The defendants' character is not an issue unless he makes it an issue." That is why if there are any skeletons in his client's closet that are likely to prejudice the jury if they found out about it, a good defense lawyer will strongly advise his client not to take the stand in his own defense.

--------------------
"The bicycle is the most civilized conveyance known to man. Other forms of transport grow daily more nightmarish. Only the bicycle remains pure in heart."--Iris Murdoch

Posts: 3307 | From: Charleston, WV | Registered: Oct 2002  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a moderator
  This topic comprises 3 pages: 1  2  3   

Quick Reply
Message:

HTML is enabled.
UBB Code™ is enabled.

Instant Graemlins
   


Post new topic  New Poll  Post a reply Close topic   Feature Topic   Move Topic   Delete topic next oldest topic   next newest topic
 - Printer-friendly view of this topic
Hop To:


Urban Legends Reference Pages

Powered by Infopop Corporation
UBB.classic™ 6.7.2