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JUSTICE: Jury reform needed

Letter by Lyle Laws, Puyallup on Sep. 3, 2010 at 2:52 pm with 18 Comments »
September 3, 2010 2:52 pm

While I will have to admit that what I don’t know about America’s legal system would fill volumes, I think a change in our jury system might be in order.

If someone is charged with first-degree murder and would face the death sentence or life in prison if convicted, I think most reasonable people would agree that the jury should be required to return a unanimous verdict of guilty to carry out the punishment. However, in other cases I can’t understand why one or two holdouts should carry more weight than the other 10 or 11.

It’s hard to get 12 people to agree on what day of the week it is let alone the guilt or innocence of someone who is charged with a crime.

A great example is the seemingly never-ending trial/s of former Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich. After months of damning testimony by the government and countless hours of defense by his lawyers, one holdout juror’s opinion carried more weight than that of the other 11.

I think justice would be served just as well (or even better) if the vote of 10 out of 12 jurors would determine the final outcome of the guilt or innocence of those charged with crimes against the people.

I won’t hold my breath until the system is changed.

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Leave a comment Comments → 18
  1. pen_mightier_than_sword says:

    Lyle, I have a better idea. How about when you are facing imprisonment in a penitentiary for a crime you claim you did not commit, that you agree to only 10 of 12 jurors having to vote guilty rather than all 12 unanimously?

    You don’t want the divinely inspired Constituion messed with, right?

  2. lovethemountains says:

    pen_, you read much more into some of these posts than any thinking person could possibly conjur up.

  3. I like rock-paper-scissors.

  4. fatuous says:

    I don’t see any big need to change the jury system.

    From the News Hour PBS:

    VALERIE HANS: Yes. Well, they’re very rare. I think the wonderful movie “12 Angry Men” has given people the idea that — that hung juries are — are really common. But that’s more just of art than life. About — in the federal cases, like the ones in this — in this court, about 2 percent to 3 percent hang.

    In state court cases, the rate is a little bit higher, between 5 percent and 6 percent. So, in federal cases it’s rare for a jury to hang. Usually, the jury comes together, knows about its mission, has a sense of duty that they have the responsibility of the community to decide the case as best they can, and they forge ahead. And, sometimes, they agree to disagree, as happened in this case.

    http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/politics/july-dec10/juries_08-18.html

    The prosecution has the opportunity to retrial cases they feel merits retrying.

    Again, if it’s not broken, don’t try to fix it.

  5. “They don’t believe anything not said by Glen Beck, Rush Limbaugh or Fox News”

    I have to agree that it’s pretty sad that folks take the words of entertainers as the total picture.

  6. Sumner401 says:

    Not the total picture….the ONLY picture.

  7. Pen, I did want to mention that I can find no constitutional requirement that states there needs to be a unanimous jury to convert in criminal crimes.

    Here is a source that states that Florida does not require unanimous juries.

    http://www.thefreelibrary.com/Death+is+different%3A+the+need+for+jury+unanimity+in+death+penalty+cases-a0217771075

  8. fatuous says:

    Here is some more information on the US constitution and unanimous juries.

    http://www.law.umkc.edu/faculty/projects/ftrials/conlaw/jurysize.html

  9. ratujack says:

    Mr Lyle Laws………the prosecuters (government) went and spent millions of dollars (taxpayers) and millions of hours and time. The defense presented nothing because they felt the Federal Prosecutor Fitzpatrick had no case. They were right. I would hate to live in the world you would create.
    It is prosecutorial misconduct that needs the real change in this country. I was on a plane and found the Guardian newspaper from UK . There was an article. and let me tell how it read and how it works in Afghanistan. A taliban raped a young girl. 5 fellow Afghans hung her from a crane…..she was raped thus un-pure. They were all let free because under Sharia Law she was un-pure to let herself be raped. Start you reform over there first then come back home.

  10. Whats’s needed is some good ‘ol frontier justice. In those cases where the evidence is rock solid, ie; video, DNA, confessions etc., get the rope out. Too much time and money is spent in some instances to save a worthless character such as Manson who should have been strung up decades ago.

  11. ratujack says:

    frosty…..you would do well in the Tacoma Police Department’s management team……..

  12. Our justice system remains flawed as long as the unanamous rule is in effect! In a country where The majority is supposed to rule,the final decision now is the decision has to be unanimous.This fine in some cases but not in every case.The hung jury in the trial of Bloggo is a good example of why we do not a unanimous verdict!! Eleven of the jurors had it right but one of the juror had the wool pulled over her eyes.Too many choose to let their emotions get in the way of good judgement! I am afraid this is the way our judicial is going to remain and grevious decisions will continue to be the norm.

  13. fatuous says:

    “Whats’s needed is some good ‘ol frontier justice.”

    We have a constitution. Many of us went to war to protect that constitution, freedom, and American way of life that that constitution represents.

    I, for one, am not going to spit in the faces or desecrate the graves of the brave men and woman who gave so much to protect that constitution and what it means to be an American.

  14. larsman says:

    Phone Book – “A” section (not automobiles)……who looks just a leeetle bit over-represented. The same ones giving us the real reason that healthcare is so expensive. The same ones who profit whether or not they “succeed” or “fail”
    (win or lose a case, doesn’t matter, they still get paid) .Find glory and self- inflated financial gratification in making confusing theatrics somehow “rewarding”. Hide behind the arcane Latin language like a coward behind mommy’s apron. Advertise on billboards, endless TV commercials and not only in phone books but on them. Then, a’ judge’, who was an “A”, flippantly and condescendingly instructs the jury to ignore common sense and their conscience. Wonder why…

  15. rat-u-jack, thanks for the compliment. But I’m way past the age of being a cop. Fatuous, where in the Constitution is it written that convicted murderers and child rapist are immune from hanging? FYI, I also went to war to support the Constitution and to ensure that the letter of the law is uphelp, so don’t wave your flag in my face, got it?

  16. Our legal system is framed so 9 guilty will go free before one innocent man is hung.
    Its designed this way. It’s imperfect. It’s impossible for it to be perfect. Now, the 64,000.00 question. Would you rather have a justice system that lets 9 guilty go before 1 innocent is convicted, or would you rather have the occasional innocent convicted? Our jury system has already imprisoned, and murdered innocent people. DNA evidence has gotten a few out of prison after many years. Its tough, but you can’t start sliding down that slope. If you wanna get riled up at somebody on the Blago case, get mad at the government, Rahm Emanuel, and the other idiots that put this case together. It was politics as usual, but they went after him because he wasn’t towing the party line. Obama told him who he wanted appointed, and Blago didn’t just acquiesce.

  17. APimpNamedSlickback says:

    frosty:

    You ask where in the Constitution is it written that convicted murderers and child rapists are immune from hanging…

    Well, it doesn’t say that convicted murderers are so immune, but the Eighth Amendment states: “Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.” Child rape – although it probably should be – is not a capital offense. Thus, hanging a convicted child rapist would be a cruel and unusual punishment.

    Of course, your question was directed to a comment decrying “frontier justice,” which is defined as extrajudicial punishment, punishment without conviction, or punishment without even a defined law. So Fatuous’ comment did not relate to the punishment of convicted murderers or child rapists — just suspected ones. And so, if that was what you were really asking about, then I would say that the Fifth and Eighth Amendments pretty clearly prohibit such hangings.

  18. Rod Blagojevich was tried and convicted in the media. Why do we even need 12 human jurors, or a trial, for that matter?

    Maybe all we need are 12 kangaroos. They’ll agree to anything.

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