Questioning Jurors after their decision

What is the reason against requiring Jurors to give there reasons for voting guilty or not guilty in a trial. With the proviso that the juror cannot be held liable for the reason they give. Would the information be more helpful than harmful in case where a retrial is requested if the information was available when deciding if a retrial is appropriate?

Hopefully the likes of Bricker or Oakminster will be along shortly to answer, but I don’t think it’s actually against the rules to ask jurors for their reasons for ruling as they have–at least not for the whole world. That is, one sees jurors in high-profile cases being interviewed by the media all the time.

The prohibition, i think, is against jurors in a criminal case having to JUSTIFY their decision to the prosecution–i.e., to the state. And the reason for that seems simple enough: to maintain the jury’s independence of action.

If you require the jurors to justify their decision, what are you going to do with a juror that says, “I dunno, he just seemed innocent/guilty to me”? Jail? Fines? A night in the stocks? Unless there’s some penatly associated with failing to give a responsive answer, then the requirement is meaningless. And if there IS a punishment for failing to give a good answer, then jury independence is finished. Might as well just do away with the jury system entirely.

And attorneys DO ask the jury why they voted the way they did. I was on a jury where the prosecutor and defense attorney asked us why we gave a lesser sentence instead of a greater one. And we answered…but voluntarily. How exactly should I be “required” to answer?

(Defendant had stolen an unopened case of pull tabs from a bar. The question was how much that case was worth…was it worth $100 that the bar had paid for the tabs from the printer, 3rd degree theft, or was it worth $1500 that the bar would have paid out to all winning tabs in the case, 2nd degree theft.)

I was told that we were permitted, but not required, to talk to the attorneys after we gave our verdict. (They were standing in the hallway, waiting.) I suppose we would have been allowed to talk to the press if there was any press interest.

Our instructions specifically mentioned how some of the decisions we made were subjective. One’s opinion of the credibility of a witness is specifically allowed to be a factor. I don’t see how one could expect any answer except “I felt that way”. If it was purely logic, you could get a computer to serve jury duty.

By ‘required’ I mearlt meant reguired to give some reason with no repurcussions if it was so poor as “I didn’t like the defendants makeup and piercings”. There would be no action against the juror, but I don’t think that would make the recording of such info meaningless. Jurors who show such poor methods of reasoning could be avoided if they came up for jury duty in the future, and any conviction based on a jury that gave many poor reasons would be a prime candidate for a retrial.
It seems this feedback loop is in existance where the attorneys Do ask the jury why they voted the way they did. Is the information that the jury given recorded, and is it used in considering possible retrial, and future eligability of jury members?

We were asked if we had ever been on a jury before, if we were foremen, and if a decision was reached. We were specifically told not to give the verdict. This was to see, I think, if something in the past experience would affect our decision - but I’m not sure.

We were given pads with our juror number to take notes on - and these had to be left in the jury room after we were done. Does anyone know how these were used?

I hope that an attorney will jump in here eventually, but my impression is that jurors are supposed to fall instructions, look at all the evidence, look at the law, and make sure a decision is reached beyond a reasonable doubt. Nothing is said about the need to construct a logical argument. “Peers” does not mean “only those who got over a 700 on the Math SAT” after all.
Actually, I think it’s a good thing to have a mix of logical and emotional thinkers on a jury - it makes sure no aspect is left out.

But who is responsible for blacklisting stupid jurors? The prosecutors? The defense team? The judge? Some third party bureacracy?

Jurors that are really stupid and biased can and are dismissed during vior dire.

Look if jurors are really this bad, why not just scrap the jury system and have all cases tried by judges? Lots of European countries have done this, or never had a tradition of jury trials in the first place, and they seem to do all right.

Seems to me the honest answer for many jurors would be ‘peer pressure’.

If they got a quorum on the first vote they would all return right away. So basically, the strongest willed push the weakest into submission. Unless the strongest willed are opposed, in which case it’s a hung jury.

In Ohio, the notes are destroyed and no one else is supposed to look at them.

Quite true, but the jury’s “look at the law” is limited to that which is provided to it by the trial judge, through her instructions. And the standard of proof beyond a reasonable doubt is in criminal cases only, of course.

I agree. The jury system has persisted in the U.S. even though it has largely been abandoned in Britain, where it originated. Something like 90% of all jury trials today are in the U.S. Peer pressure isn’t really much of an issue in jury dynamics, from what I’ve read and seen. In my experience, most jurors genuinely try to work together and to do their jobs right. Juries can make mistakes, as all human institutions tend to do, but I’m convinced they’re the best mechanism available for seeing that justice is done in most cases.

And to answer the OP…

Laws which limit the extent or nature of post-verdict questioning of jurors have several purposes: protecting jurors’ privacy; ensuring that a verdict may be reached without fear of an inquisition afterwards; preventing losing counsel from appealing on the basis of dopey/inarticulate/whimsical/capricious jurors; and removing or diminishing the financial incentive for a juror in a high-profile case to cash in when one verdict or another would lead to $$$$ from the media.

In Ohio, jurors may speak to counsel or the press after the verdict is announced, if they wish, but may not be required to do so. I’ve seen some judges actively discourage jurors from doing so; others don’t care one way or the other.

I don’t understand your last point. How would the questioning of jurors have any impact on their cashing in? As I mentioned, in California you have to wait 90 days to cash in, which I suppose prevents TV stations from paying jurors for exclusive accounts - by 90 days the news is stale, except for OJ level cases.

I’m not saying it’s the most persuasive logic in the world, but I think that’s pretty much why such legislation has been adopted.

Thanks, you cut to the chase quite nicely, and indicated the one part I am not convinced by. Why is it considered a bad thing to allow losing council to seek an appeal based on those criteria?

Because on any jury, you’ll always be able to find at least individual who is, or who seems to be, dopey, inarticulate, whimsical or capricious. Every case would then be appealed simply because losing counsel alleges that the jury thus botched its job. That, in and of itself, is not a valid basis for appeal. The law gives everyone the right to a fair trial; it does not provide everyone the right to a perfect trial. Appeals are meant to address serious legal and factual issues that lead to the deprivation of the right to a fair trial, or that lead the court or jury into error, and not to examine (as such) how the jury went about deciding the case.

But if grounds for appeal required showing that more than half the jury were incompitent, then wouldn’t it be quite reasonable to retry a trial where the majority of jurors are susspect?

Bippy, the simplest answer to your question is that the knowledge that they will be required to justify their vote after the fact may affect jurors’ votes.
As voyager noted, juror’s decisions are often subjective. Indeed, given that in almost every case, the jury has to decide the truthfulness of witnesses with conflicting testimony, juror’s decisions are almost always subjective.
If a juror is faced with a situation where they may be required, after the fact, to justify a subjective decision, they may alter that decision so that the decision they are required to justify may be the more popular one.
And we wish to avoid that.


What if the justification was given anonymously? Each juror could write on a form or something why he voted the way he did and all the pieces could be put into a hat and given to whoever would be in charge of taking them.

If I were a juror, I’d write “I felt the prosecution [did/did not] provide evidence that convinced me beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant was guilty.” Would you expect people to write the last chapter of an Agatha Christie novel? I would have, but most of my fellow jurors were ready to get the hell out of there - and we hadn’t deliberated very long.

Well, if it’s anonymous what happens when I put a blank piece of paper in the hopper?

You can’t MAKE jurors give a justification for their decision without destroying the jury system.

And what exactly are the laywers and judges going to do with these feedback forms that they couldn’t get simply by asking the jurors politely after the trial is over?

Look, I’ve served on three juries. On all the juries I’ve served on I never came away with the impression that ANY of the other jurors were idiots, or that they didn’t take their responsibilities very seriously.

If you think that incompetant jurors are a new epidemic that must be addressed somehow, please provide some evidence that such a problem exists before you start hunting around for a cure.

To some extent this already happens. In some cases, the jurors are obliged to fill out special verdict forms. This happened recently in the death penalty phase of Zacawari (sp?). Instead of simply giving a general verdict, the jurors answer particular questions as to the particular elements of the claim or charge, and then give their verdict.
Defense and defendants’ lawyers love special verdict forms, because there is a chance that the special findings of the jury make the verdict they propound a legal impossibility, or at least implausible, giving more grounds for appeal.