While, I see value in jury outreach, I’ve been pondering for a while, whether it accomplishes anything? At this point it’s not because I believe it works, rather I believe there’s a chance it could work. It may not be possible, but I’ve been wondering if there’s a way to formulate jury information in such a way, that could potentially have greater conviction towards getting jurors to use their right of conscience, rather than blindly following the instructions/law. Consequently, with the help of Kate Ager & Pete Eyre along with input from others, we created an insert with extended jury rights information. I realize this is quite the long shot, since I’m already impressed with the NHJury.com flyer, which has been used in recent trials. Hopefully value can be found or built on this information, so it can be used in an insert or as a flyer. When it comes to a juror I think you can get away with having a lot of information on a flyer, they have the time and jurors want to do the right thing. Unfortunately, they often times think the right thing is following instructions and removing ones conscience from the jury process. It’s absolute insanity to imagine that 95+% of jury trials are unanimous considering you have 12 jurors that should have different thought processes. There’s got to be a way to discourage jurors from compromising, because it happens in most cases.
When I first moved to Keene (March 1, 2011), I was optimistic about jury outreach. It seemed likely to me, if a jury was informed of their rights, one would almost certainly nullify a bad law in reference to the host of victimless crimes being presented before them, right? Luckily for me, naivety wasn’t a crime, but to my defense, I only had to hit my head on the hopeful juror beam twice before reality kicked in. It wasn’t so much the result of the two trials that caused my doubts; rather it was the reflection on my own jury duty experience (12 years ago). Everything suddenly became so obvious to me and I realized exactly what it is that we are up against. I will break this down at a later time, because it’s a 2 page long theory, so I will make another post explaining my take on the juror psychological process.
A juror will follow the judge’s instructions/law without any distraction from one’s own thought process the vast majority of time. So in performing juror outreach our role is simple, convince a juror with only words on paper to use their own thought process. I mean, you’re talking years and years of obeying authority, trusting the system and now through just a pamphlet they’re going to somehow reverse a lifetime of thinking? I’m obviously down to continue trying.
I wonder if a jury can be influenced through outreach. I wonder if the last two in the species of albino spotted pandas will fuck before a juror ever nullifies a law. Keep in mind that the pandas are in their natural habitat within the Bronx Zoo, while hundreds of assholes watch them daily, as zookeepers regularly engage them in foreplay hoping to get them in the mood. When all the furry bastards want to do is go out with a little class, rather than being a PT Barnum freak show for the local voyeurs. Oy Vey!!!
I think the flyer is on the right track, but there’s plenty of room for improvement, so if anyone has further ideas, suggestions, wants to collaborate, add to it, change things up, do your own thing with it, etc. feel free to do whatever? The goal behind the pamphlet is to build as an effective jury outreach informational tool as possible. The purpose thus far is to; give the jurors as much reasoning as possible behind their rights; let the juror know they have the right to use their own personal thought process; explain the juror psychology; inform them that they have the right to ignore all of the judge’s instructions; explain the deliberation process; let them know about the myths associated with hanging a jury; if they deem something true, they should never compromise their beliefs.
Extended Juror Rights & the Jury Process
The role of a juror is an important one. As a juror, you are literally the final check and balance on the justice system. Being judged by one’s peers is intended to safeguard the accused from wrongful imprisonment, unjust legislation as well as the potential for bias of an individual judge.
After closing arguments, the judge will provide you and the other jurors with a set of recommended instructions. This information is just that – a recommendation. As a juror you have the right to disregard the laws pertaining to the case if you deem them unethical or misapplied. Blindly following the instructions would defeat the purpose of a trial by jury. Therefore, to preserve the rights of the accused, it is essential that you question the instructions, and act according to your conscience. It is certainly easier to interpret the instructions as though they are orders, being that it helps to remove the feelings of emotional responsibility, but when the fate of another person rests on your shoulders, you ought to feel responsible. This can be difficult to recognize, since it’s typically a subconscious response, but when a juror removes their conscience from the instructions they’re essentially acting as the tool merely carrying out orders, since no decisions are being made by yourself, you feel no responsibility.
In a criminal trial you must find the defendant “guilty beyond a reasonable doubt”. The burden of proof rests heavily on the prosecution, so the evidence of the defendant’s wrongdoing should be substantial for a guilty verdict. In good conscience, a juror should decide guilt based on the alleged wrongdoing, as opposed to whether or not the laws in the case have been broken. Throughout history, many laws have been enforced that are today deemed unethical. Voting with your conscience is the surest way to avoid enforcing unethical legislation.
As a juror, ask yourself, who did the defendant victimize/harm?
If you decide that someone was victimized, how can the defendant make the victim whole?
If the wrongdoing is of an extreme nature, what is the appropriate punishment for the crime? This can be difficult, because in many proceedings the jury is not informed of these penalties. Should the jury be informed of this? If knowing the penalty is important in your decision making process, you can ask the judge questions during deliberation. The judge may not specifically answer your question, but, you should do everything in your control to make an informed decision under the circumstances. If this prevents you from making an informed decision, it is perfectly fine to be undecided.
During deliberation, it is important that you stand up for what you believe in, which is difficult if you are in the minority. It is common for jurors to give into the pressures, so they come to a verdict that defies their good conscience and all they deem just. If the jury cannot come to a unanimous decision, you should not feel compelled to compromise. For example, half the jury believes the defendant is not guilty on both charges, while the other half believes the defendant is guilty on both charges, so the jury finds the defendant guilty on one charge. Should the defendant’s guilt or none guilt be compromise able?
In New Hampshire, if the jury cannot come to a unanimous decision, the judge cannot give the jury further instructions, make the jurors feel guilty, or attempt to persuade the jury in any way to force a decision. You should never allow the judge or fellow jurors to coerce you into a decision.
If the jury can’t come to a unanimous decision, it is called a hung jury and the judge will declare a mistrial. The misconception that a hung jury is undesirable, is common among jury pools, as a result a jury will compromise to reach a unanimous verdict to prevent this outcome. Another myth is that a hung jury will have a greater cost to the taxpayer. In all actuality, when a mistrial is declared, the prosecution will decide if they have enough evidence or desire to retry the defendant at a later time. If they choose to proceed, the additional time will allow both parties to regroup and build on the facts of their case. In most instances, the prosecution will either drop the charges completely, or offer a fairly lenient plea deal. If the jury cannot come to a unanimous decision, you should not feel compelled to compromise. Compromising to avoid a hung jury is not recommended.
May the people share comfort knowing that the Justice System and the life of the accused rest in the hands of the fully informed, conscientious juror.