You're on a criminal jury. WOuld you want to know if there's a mandatory prison sentence?

As a juror I see my job is to determine the facts and decide on guilt or innocence. Sentencing belongs to the judge or another jury or time after the trial on guilt or innocence. It would make no difference to me what the sentence is.

Which is exactly why jurors should not know about sentencing.
The question before the jury is “Did the defendant commit the crime?” and nothing else. As soon as you say “I think he did it but I’m voting not guilty because I feel sorry for the guy,” you’ve become a very poor juror.

I think I’d be ok with being a poor juror. My ethical obligations are more important to me than my legal ones. Maybe that’s wrong when you look at the big picture, I can understand why some posters are saying this should be dealt with legislatively and not by individual jurors, but it isn’t something I’d be able to ignore.

Why is it morally right to ignore the consequences of your decision? Must we be so robotic that we can’t use human judgement and temper it with compassion if appropriate?

My thoughts exactly. I just want to consider the facts of the case, I don’t want to know that I’m essentially voting for someone to get life without parole just because he got caught with weed for the third time*.


I’d want to know about any mandatory prison sentences because it would affect whether or not I find him guilty

Sorry, strict law abiders, that’s how I roll. Yes, such power has been abused, and yes, it may yet be abused again, but I don’t find deciding things in a vacuum just. Better to be convinced why the sentence is fair than to decide without all of the information. If I cannot be convinced it’s fair, I’d be more likely to find a guilty person not guilty.

And if I wasn’t told but wasn’t sequestered, I’d probably google to see what the answer is

And for the record, I consider it a cop-out and morally cowardly to answer any response with “It’s not my job to know”. You’re a human being. You live among people, not arbitrary rules etched into stone. Exercise your ability to think for yourself sometime. More information is never wrong. It may be difficult to live with, there’s plenty of things I don’t want to know, but I don’t think I would be a worst person to know them

I don’t think it’s “robotic” to take seriously the oath I swore when seated. My duty as a juror is to return a verdict that is consistent with the evidence presented at trial. Subsequently, whatever sentence a convicted defendant receives is a consequence of his or her own decision to commit a crime.

Given the fact that mandatory sentences exist, I think juries should know. If MMS didn’t exist, the problem would go away.

I’ve never been on a jury. What happens to me if I refuse to take the oath because I don’t think I can abide by it?

They’ll find some other unlucky bastard to take your place.

It’s probably better if the jury doesn’t know. The jury should just determine if the facts are proven and if they fit a particular crime. If I knew a guilty vote would send someone to prison that I otherwise felt shouldn’t go to prison, I’d probably not vote guilty. That’s not the way the system should work.

I wouldn’t want to know. If I’m unhappy with the sentence for a particular crime, the time to deal with that is when I vote and when I write my legislators to change the sentencing guidelines. Inside the jury room, the only thing I should be concerned with is whether the prosecution has proven that the defendant is guilty of the crime she’s being tried for. The potential punishment is not relevant when answering that question. The person is not more guilty if it’s a 3-year sentence and less guilty if it’s only a 1-year sentence. They’re either guilty or not guilty either way. It’s a lot easier to carefully consider the relevant information if I don’t even know about the extraneous crap.

That’s a good point. You’re deciding whether they committed a specific crime, and that crime is defined by law; you’re not just saying ‘we think he committed these acts,’ you’re saying ‘we think he is guilty of this crime.’

If a jury decided to vote not guilty because the sentence was, in their opinions, too harsh, then that might just be their ‘reasonable doubt’ kicking into play.

This crime could, say, send a man to prison for ten years rather than the one year you thought he was going to go in for; are you really sure he did it? Really really sure? I mean, we only want people sent to jail if the judge and jury really are certain beyond reasonable doubt that they committed the crime, right?

Then, if juries having this knowledge did affect the number of guilty verdicts, perhaps that’d be a sign that the mandatory sentence was wrong.

Right, because the “rules” came to us from a meteorite that dropped out of the sky, there was no reasoning or thinking or actual people involved in enacting them in the first place, so we need your enlightened adjudication.

That’s the way a computerized justice system might work, not the way a human one should. Humans have flexibility and the intelligence to consider extenuating circumstances and unforeseen parameters.

Let’s say you are considering the case of a person accused of shoplifting a loaf of bread to feed his family. There is no doubt that he did it, so you convict.

Afterwards, you learn that, due to draconian and grossly unfair laws, the mandatory penalty is loss of his right hand.

Did you do the right thing to convict? Legally, sure. Morally?

Of course, this is extreme. But it’s all a matter of degree. Many people feel that some punishments are way out of line with the crime, as I suspect you may feel about my example.

You need your own. Essentially, you would be saying that 1) you don’t want to know because you’re either incapable of rendering a verdict not tainted by the knowledge, or 2) that having this knowledge would make you uncomfortable given that you couldn’t hope for the best outcome by feigning ignorance. That’s the cowardice I was speaking of

For the former, that makes you inhuman. People who know of what jail is like created the law mandating automatic jail time. They were allowed to use their full knowledge to consult whether or not such a rule would be ok. You cannot see that it is wrong for them to deny you that same privilege? If a jury cannot know what sentences are mandatory before rendering a verdict, why should those who created that law get to decide that, or decide that jail time fits whatever crime mandates it? Shouldn’t they not be allowed to know what crimes they are attaching to this law?

For the latter, that makes you cowardly. Considering your decision in a veil of ignorance doesn’t make your decision any more right. It makes you unwilling to face up to the consequences of your actions.

If you don’t need non-lawyers’ adjudication, then why have juries?

I see. That’s much clearer, thanks. But conversely, can you see how troubling it is to let people mete out their own brand of justice by way of acquitting someone despite the evidence against them? The portion of your post I took issue with was the notion that the rules are these rigid, alien concepts with no connection to our sensibilities. They continue to exist because the majority of people want them to exist, and further, people know what the risks are when they commit the crime. This is not Wesley Crusher being put to death because he stepped on a flower.

Juries are finders of fact.

Is it really a fact? It’s beyond reasonable doubt, not a fact. And you’re still asking juries to decide on that. You’re still asking juries to decide, for example, not just ‘did he do this’ but ‘did he do this, and does it fit within the legal definition of [said crime]?’ You]re asking them to make a decision about whether a law applies to this situation.

I found some State of Illinois jury guidelines.

Seems pretty clear to me.