A Juror's Resposibility

I just finished watching the move “Twelve Angry Men”

Its led me to ponder this question.

If a juror believes that the prosecution has not proved its case, that there is reasonable doubt, yet he is not comfortable to give the defendant a free pass as a result of double jeopardy, is it ok to to vote guilty to ensure a hung jury and hope for a better trial in the future?

I’m not a lawyer, but this is in GD rather than GQ, so, drawing on my own ethical intuitions: No. If the prosecution has not proved its case, the defendant is entitled to “a free pass” (which is to say, one is by default entitled to one, and there is a strong burden of proof incumbent upon those who would seek to remove it); them’s the breaks. Lying about the strength of the prosecution because one does not like the fact that reasonable doubt precludes legal guilt is very icky.

Seconding this. remember that the prosecution gets (within broad limits) to pick when it brings its case. It can wait to get its evidence together for a year or more (most statutes of limitations are 2+ years).

We have to presume the prosecution is taking its very best shot at the case. If it can’t prove it then, why does the prosecution deserve another chance?

Also, though I’m not a lawyer, and (touch wood) haven’t had to appear in court for anything to date, it’s clear it’s 1) time-consuming, 2) expensive, and 3) unpleasant. Giving the prosecution another shot means the defendant has to go through all that again–maybe they can’t afford as good a lawyer this time, and will have to plead, maybe they won’t be able to make their best defense, maybe they’ll just run their business into the ground because they have to be in court.

It’s totally unfair to make someone go through that again.

Furthermore, on the principle, the default is innocent. Nobody needs to prove they’re innocent. If the prosecution hasn’t proven someone to be guilty, they not only should, but they have a right to walk out the front door of the courthouse five minutes later. I can’t understand how anyone could deny someone that when eleven other people thing the guy is innocent, and you doubt whether he’s guilty or not.

No. First, there is a lot going on that juries aren’t told about; you may not in fact be giving the defendant a “free pass.” Plus, in certain circumstances the mere fact that he was charged with the crime, even if not convicted, can be used against him in later prosecutions for other crimes.

But more importantly, as a juror, you take an oath to faithfully follow the directions you’re given. You take an oath to vote not guilty if you have reasonable doubt that he committed the offense.

(Plus how awful for you if you vote guilty to try and hang the jury and the other jurors change their minds and vote guilty as well, so you’ve just convicted someone you don’t think did it.)

Well, not really. A defendant in the US has a constitututional right to a speedy trial. In addition, the longer time that elapses between the commission of the crime and the trial, the “staler” the evidence. Witnesses die, or move, or forget; physical evidence gets lost, or contaminated. So the prosecution is under both a practical directive (fresh evidence) and constitutional directive (speedy trial) to move quickly.

But if you don’t find reasonable doubt, you ought to vote not guilty.


Well, I thought speedy trial only was triggered at indictment-that it doesn’t limit the time between crime—indictment, which is the statute of limitation.
-(and plenty of the sources of delay, notably court congestion and time creditable to D for trial prep are outside of speedy trial).

Prosecutors also have discretion not to bring a case, or certain counts, if they don’t feel they can make a case.

Also, double jeopardy explicitly forbids a prosecutor to take another shot at the case after an acquittal.

So all together, I think it is fair to presume that when a case gets to court, it is the prosecution’s best case–or if it isn’t, that they aren’t doing it right. Furthermore, the point I was making was that it would be unfair to presume they have something better, in order to give the prosecutor another bite at the apple. Even if one rationally (as one might) contests my argument that the structural incentives favor the prosecutor bringing their best case, I really don’t see how they support the alternative conclusion.

Based on my experience as a juror, you’re not supposed to do that. You are to follow the judge’s instructions and make a decision based on what you have heard.