How can the Judge tell me as a Juror, what I can and cannot take into account in deliberations?

 

When I sat on a jury, one of the charges was what we could and could not take into account. They wanted us to look at the facts of the case. In this case, there was a directed verdict because the law was so very clear. We just had to debate if there should have been an award (so we said) and how much (held up on appeal, so we were apparently in the right).

However, one of the defendants on the stand was so clearly a long-term alcoholic to my eyes, it lent a lot of credence to the testimony of the plaintiff regarding the other man’s behavior. In short, the accusations against the defendant that he behaved like a belligerent drunk were totally believable.

It seems to me, that once I am back in that room, I can decide whatever I want based on whatever I want from the case. And I could easily refuse to vote “guilty” just because I did not like the haircut of the DA.

What am I missing?

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  1. Caryn Thatcher
    Caryn
    @Caryn

    Honor.

    • #1
  2. Bryan G. Stephens Thatcher
    Bryan G. Stephens
    @BryanGStephens

    Caryn (View Comment):

    Honor.

    I was hoping for a bit more legal analysis than that, but thank you for your input. 

    • #2
  3. Saint Augustine Member
    Saint Augustine
    @SaintAugustine

    Bryan G. Stephens:

    What am I missing?

    The vital importance of punishing Trump and anyone who helps him.

    • #3
  4. Pagodan Member
    Pagodan
    @MatthewBaylot

    You could, but you’d be violating the oath you took as a juror to base your verdict only on the facts of the case as presented at trial and the law given to you by the judge. Except in rare and egregious cases, the court isn’t going to pry into jury deliberations, but the assumption is jurors are acting within their oath. 

    So the judge instructs the jury on what they can and cannot consider, because the judge is legally required to do so. 

    • #4
  5. W Bob Member
    W Bob
    @WBob

    In a criminal case, the jurors have the last word if they acquit the accused. Even if they violate what the judge tells them, too bad. The verdict is final. But if they convict a defendant, the judge could theoretically overturn the verdict if he thinks they violated the jury instructions. 

    • #5
  6. Doug Watt Member
    Doug Watt
    @DougWatt

    It depends upon whether it is a civil trial or a criminal trial:

    Criminal trials are prosecuted by the state, while civil trials involve an individual plaintiff and a defendant.

    Criminal offenses are seen as an offense against society or the government, while civil offenses are disputes between private parties.

    Criminal trials require a higher standard of proof (beyond a reasonable doubt), while civil trials require a lower standard of proof (preponderance of the evidence).

    Criminal trials almost always allow for a trial by jury, while civil trials may or may not have a jury.

    Sometimes criminal and civil trials cross paths but in the US they are never tried together. For example, the OJ Simpson verdict of not guilty in the criminal trial still led to a lawsuit and civil trial in which the preponderance of evidence resulted in a civil jury finding him liable for $33 million in damages.

    • #6
  7. Misthiocracy has never Member
    Misthiocracy has never
    @Misthiocracy

    A judge can offer pretty much any advice he likes to the jury, but he has little-to-no authority to punish them if they refuse to follow that advice.  The judge’s advice is just his opinion.

    • #7
  8. Al French Moderator
    Al French
    @AlFrench

    You are not missing anything. The judge instructs the jury on what the law is, including an instruction that they follow the law.  But the jury can do whatever it wants. A verdict contrary to instructions is called “jury nullification”. A verdict in favor of a defendant is final, and a judge, and a judge can’t do anything about it. A verdict in favor of the government could be overturned if serious misconduct on the part of the jury is found.

    • #8
  9. Al French Moderator
    Al French
    @AlFrench

    Misthiocracy has never (View Comment):

    A judge can offer pretty much any advice he likes to the jury, but he has little-to-no authority to punish them if they refuse to follow that advice. The judge’s advice is just his opinion.

    Jury instructions are not “advice” and they are not the judge’s “opinion”. They are a statement of the law that the jurors are legally (but not practically) required to follow.

    • #9
  10. Bryan G. Stephens Thatcher
    Bryan G. Stephens
    @BryanGStephens

    Saint Augustine (View Comment):

    Bryan G. Stephens:

    What am I missing?

    The vital importance of punishing Trump and anyone who helps him.

    I did not even mention Trump. I am asking a more broad question. 

    • #10
  11. Bryan G. Stephens Thatcher
    Bryan G. Stephens
    @BryanGStephens

    Pagodan (View Comment):

    You could, but you’d be violating the oath you took as a juror to base your verdict only on the facts of the case as presented at trial and the law given to you by the judge. Except in rare and egregious cases, the court isn’t going to pry into jury deliberations, but the assumption is jurors are acting within their oath.

    So the judge instructs the jury on what they can and cannot consider, because the judge is legally required to do so.

    I might be at that. 

    What if I think the law is unjust?

    • #11
  12. Full Size Tabby Member
    Full Size Tabby
    @FullSizeTabby

    Bryan G. Stephens (View Comment):

    Pagodan (View Comment):

    You could, but you’d be violating the oath you took as a juror to base your verdict only on the facts of the case as presented at trial and the law given to you by the judge. Except in rare and egregious cases, the court isn’t going to pry into jury deliberations, but the assumption is jurors are acting within their oath.

    So the judge instructs the jury on what they can and cannot consider, because the judge is legally required to do so.

    I might be at that.

    What if I think the law is unjust?

    In criminal law, that is the original “jury nullification.” The jury “nullifies” a law the jurors think is unjust by refusing to convict a defendant even though the prosecution has shown that the defendant committed every element of the crime. 

    The judge in the jury instructions tells the jury what the elements of the crime are (what the law is). The judge instructs the jury that they may convict the defendant only if they find that the defendant committed all those elements of the crime as described.

    If during deliberations, any juror thinks the law is so unjust that even though he “did it,” it would be morally wrong to convict the defendant. If just one or a few jurors hold out, the result is a “hung jury.” After a “hung jury” the prosecution can try the defendant again in a new trial, but the prosecutors are likely to consider whether future jurors might also consider the law unjust and thus fail to convict.

    If the objecting juror can convince all of his fellow jurors of the unjustness of the law, the jury can vote unanimously for acquittal. Once acquitted, the defendant is exempt from being re-tried for the same crime. 

    Jury nullification became popular in the 1960s in response to arguments that many criminal prosecutions were being pursued for racial reasons (what we now know as the civil rights cases). 

    • #12
  13. kedavis Coolidge
    kedavis
    @kedavis

    The jury decides issues of fact, and they are allowed to decide whether or not they believe any particular testimony.  They can use a variety of “methods” for that, including a witness’s demeanor etc.  If the witness’s demeanor is that of a long-time drunk, that can be considered as making the testimony not credible.  Especially if there is other testimony that contradicts it.

    • #13
  14. Bryan G. Stephens Thatcher
    Bryan G. Stephens
    @BryanGStephens

    This does not seem a clear cut as I might have hoped. 

    • #14
  15. kedavis Coolidge
    kedavis
    @kedavis

    Bryan G. Stephens (View Comment):

    This does not seem a clear cut as I might have hoped.

    Technically I suppose you “could” vote to acquit because you didn’t like the DA’s haircut.  But you really shouldn’t.

    Nor should, for example, female (or homosexual male) jurors vote to convict because they thought the (male) DA was “hot.”

    • #15
  16. Pagodan Member
    Pagodan
    @MatthewBaylot

    Bryan G. Stephens (View Comment):

    Pagodan (View Comment):

    You could, but you’d be violating the oath you took as a juror to base your verdict only on the facts of the case as presented at trial and the law given to you by the judge. Except in rare and egregious cases, the court isn’t going to pry into jury deliberations, but the assumption is jurors are acting within their oath.

    So the judge instructs the jury on what they can and cannot consider, because the judge is legally required to do so.

    I might be at that.

    What if I think the law is unjust?

    You probably shouldn’t agree to be on the jury then. Judges and attorneys address this in voir dire a lot. The legislature has written the laws, and voted on them. There is a political process for changing those laws. If you disagree with those laws, or think upholding the law is unjust, you shouldn’t swear an oath to uphold those laws. 

    • #16
  17. kedavis Coolidge
    kedavis
    @kedavis

    Pagodan (View Comment):

    Bryan G. Stephens (View Comment):

    Pagodan (View Comment):

    You could, but you’d be violating the oath you took as a juror to base your verdict only on the facts of the case as presented at trial and the law given to you by the judge. Except in rare and egregious cases, the court isn’t going to pry into jury deliberations, but the assumption is jurors are acting within their oath.

    So the judge instructs the jury on what they can and cannot consider, because the judge is legally required to do so.

    I might be at that.

    What if I think the law is unjust?

    You probably shouldn’t agree to be on the jury then. Judges and attorneys address this in voir dire a lot. The legislature has written the laws, and voted on them. There is a political process for changing those laws. If you disagree with those laws, or think upholding the law is unjust, you shouldn’t swear an oath to uphold those laws.

    That doesn’t seem very wise for civilization as a whole.  If TPTB can pass any laws they like and then get juries consisting only of people willing to follow those laws…  wow.

    • #17
  18. Percival Thatcher
    Percival
    @Percival

    Full Size Tabby (View Comment):
    The judge in the jury instructions tells the jury what the elements of the crime are (what the law is).

    He does not give them a list and say “Pick any one of the above.”

    • #18
  19. kidCoder Member
    kidCoder
    @kidCoder

    kedavis (View Comment):
    That doesn’t seem very wise for civilization as a whole.  If TPTB can pass any laws they like and then get juries consisting only of people willing to follow those laws…  wow.

    This is why nullification exists. If in fact this is one of those hard cases that makes bad law, then a jury can fix it.

    But there are multiple questions on the jury question sheet to weed out those who believe in nullification.

    • #19
  20. Bryan G. Stephens Thatcher
    Bryan G. Stephens
    @BryanGStephens

    Pagodan (View Comment):

    Bryan G. Stephens (View Comment):

    Pagodan (View Comment):

    You could, but you’d be violating the oath you took as a juror to base your verdict only on the facts of the case as presented at trial and the law given to you by the judge. Except in rare and egregious cases, the court isn’t going to pry into jury deliberations, but the assumption is jurors are acting within their oath.

    So the judge instructs the jury on what they can and cannot consider, because the judge is legally required to do so.

    I might be at that.

    What if I think the law is unjust?

    You probably shouldn’t agree to be on the jury then. Judges and attorneys address this in voir dire a lot. The legislature has written the laws, and voted on them. There is a political process for changing those laws. If you disagree with those laws, or think upholding the law is unjust, you shouldn’t swear an oath to uphold those laws.

    I am sure I don’t agree with this. 

    To me, the whole point of a Jury is to serve justice. I am not upholding the law like a Judge or a Police Officer. I am weighing what is Just and Right. 

     

    • #20
  21. kidCoder Member
    kidCoder
    @kidCoder

    Bryan G. Stephens (View Comment):
    To me, the whole point of a Jury is to serve justice. I am not upholding the law like a Judge or a Police Officer. I am weighing what is Just and Right. 

    You are a finder of fact when you are on a jury. Your job is not upholding the law, you are finding the facts.

    Did he in fact meet the standards laid out in the law, or not?

    • #21
  22. Terry Mott Member
    Terry Mott
    @TerryMott

    kedavis (View Comment):

    The jury decides issues of fact, and they are allowed to decide whether or not they believe any particular testimony. They can use a variety of “methods” for that, including a witness’s demeanor etc. If the witness’s demeanor is that of a long-time drunk, that can be considered as making the testimony not credible. Especially if there is other testimony that contradicts it.

    This.

    One of the trials in which I served on the jury was a he said/she said about alleged sexual assault.  The “she” in this case came across as, shall we say, less than trustworthy.  We in the jury pretty much disregarded her entire testimony.  There were probably true statements in there somewhere, so her dissembling ended up hurting her overall claims, since we assumed it was all likely untrue.

    • #22
  23. EJHill Staff
    EJHill
    @EJHill

    Is it any more strange than when inadmissible evidence is introduced or something is said in a courtroom and the judge instructs the jury to ignore it?

    A couple of studies done in the late 1980s suggested that such instructions actually backfire:

    Often the judge’s order to disregard the evidence may actually make matters worse by reinforcing the evidence’s biasing effects. Neither of the studies reports that jurors stubbornly refuse to ignore evidence.

    • #23
  24. Pagodan Member
    Pagodan
    @MatthewBaylot

    kedavis (View Comment):

    Pagodan (View Comment):

    Bryan G. Stephens (View Comment):

    Pagodan (View Comment):

    You could, but you’d be violating the oath you took as a juror to base your verdict only on the facts of the case as presented at trial and the law given to you by the judge. Except in rare and egregious cases, the court isn’t going to pry into jury deliberations, but the assumption is jurors are acting within their oath.

    So the judge instructs the jury on what they can and cannot consider, because the judge is legally required to do so.

    I might be at that.

    What if I think the law is unjust?

    You probably shouldn’t agree to be on the jury then. Judges and attorneys address this in voir dire a lot. The legislature has written the laws, and voted on them. There is a political process for changing those laws. If you disagree with those laws, or think upholding the law is unjust, you shouldn’t swear an oath to uphold those laws.

    That doesn’t seem very wise for civilization as a whole. If TPTB can pass any laws they like and then get juries consisting only of people willing to follow those laws… wow.

    I don’t know what to tell you then. You either a government or you don’t?  It doesn’t really work to have system set up to allow 1 person to unilaterally decide what law should be followed, and what law should not. If you find the law is unust, go change it. Don’t swear an oath to follow the law knowing you have no intention of doing so.

    • #24
  25. kedavis Coolidge
    kedavis
    @kedavis

    Pagodan (View Comment):

    kedavis (View Comment):

    Pagodan (View Comment):

    Bryan G. Stephens (View Comment):

    Pagodan (View Comment):

    You could, but you’d be violating the oath you took as a juror to base your verdict only on the facts of the case as presented at trial and the law given to you by the judge. Except in rare and egregious cases, the court isn’t going to pry into jury deliberations, but the assumption is jurors are acting within their oath.

    So the judge instructs the jury on what they can and cannot consider, because the judge is legally required to do so.

    I might be at that.

    What if I think the law is unjust?

    You probably shouldn’t agree to be on the jury then. Judges and attorneys address this in voir dire a lot. The legislature has written the laws, and voted on them. There is a political process for changing those laws. If you disagree with those laws, or think upholding the law is unjust, you shouldn’t swear an oath to uphold those laws.

    That doesn’t seem very wise for civilization as a whole. If TPTB can pass any laws they like and then get juries consisting only of people willing to follow those laws… wow.

    I don’t know what to tell you then. You either a government or you don’t? It doesn’t really work to have system set up to allow 1 person to unilaterally decide what law should be followed, and what law should not. If you find the law is unust, go change it. Don’t swear an oath to follow the law knowing you have no intention of doing so.

    I wouldn’t necessarily assume that a prospective juror would know going in, that they already think the law is unjust, or being unjustly applied, etc.  They might not figure that out until after hearing testimony etc.

    • #25
  26. Pagodan Member
    Pagodan
    @MatthewBaylot

    Bryan G. Stephens (View Comment):

    Pagodan (View Comment):

    Bryan G. Stephens (View Comment):

    Pagodan (View Comment):

    You could, but you’d be violating the oath you took as a juror to base your verdict only on the facts of the case as presented at trial and the law given to you by the judge. Except in rare and egregious cases, the court isn’t going to pry into jury deliberations, but the assumption is jurors are acting within their oath.

    So the judge instructs the jury on what they can and cannot consider, because the judge is legally required to do so.

    I might be at that.

    What if I think the law is unjust?

    You probably shouldn’t agree to be on the jury then. Judges and attorneys address this in voir dire a lot. The legislature has written the laws, and voted on them. There is a political process for changing those laws. If you disagree with those laws, or think upholding the law is unjust, you shouldn’t swear an oath to uphold those laws.

    I am sure I don’t agree with this.

    To me, the whole point of a Jury is to serve justice. I am not upholding the law like a Judge or a Police Officer. I am weighing what is Just and Right.

     

    You don’t have to agree with it. I don’t think it’s very honorable to swear an oath to uphold the law and abide by the law the court instructs you on – knowing you have no intention of doing so. The whole point of a jury is to remove the government from the final decision of guilt or innocence. However, it would not be equal justice to have 5 people charged with the same crime held to 5 seperate standards based on the whims of random jurors who have decided they are “justice” personified and laws onto themselves. 

    Now if you end up on a jury, and after the all the evidence you and your 11 newest best friends all go into the jury room, look at eachother and say this is bulls***t, well what you do is between you, them, and God. 

    • #26
  27. Pagodan Member
    Pagodan
    @MatthewBaylot

    kedavis (View Comment):

    Pagodan (View Comment):

    kedavis (View Comment):

    Pagodan (View Comment):

    Bryan G. Stephens (View Comment):

    Pagodan (View Comment):

    You could, but you’d be violating the oath you took as a juror to base your verdict only on the facts of the case as presented at trial and the law given to you by the judge. Except in rare and egregious cases, the court isn’t going to pry into jury deliberations, but the assumption is jurors are acting within their oath.

    So the judge instructs the jury on what they can and cannot consider, because the judge is legally required to do so.

    I might be at that.

    What if I think the law is unjust?

    You probably shouldn’t agree to be on the jury then. Judges and attorneys address this in voir dire a lot. The legislature has written the laws, and voted on them. There is a political process for changing those laws. If you disagree with those laws, or think upholding the law is unjust, you shouldn’t swear an oath to uphold those laws.

    That doesn’t seem very wise for civilization as a whole. If TPTB can pass any laws they like and then get juries consisting only of people willing to follow those laws… wow.

    I don’t know what to tell you then. You either a government or you don’t? It doesn’t really work to have system set up to allow 1 person to unilaterally decide what law should be followed, and what law should not. If you find the law is unust, go change it. Don’t swear an oath to follow the law knowing you have no intention of doing so.

    I wouldn’t necessarily assume that a prospective juror would know going in, that they already think the law is unjust, or being unjustly applied, etc. They might not figure that out until after hearing testimony etc.

    See comment #26.

    • #27
  28. kedavis Coolidge
    kedavis
    @kedavis

    Pagodan (View Comment):
    The whole point of a jury is to remove the government from the final decision of guilt or innocence.

    But how does that actually happen, if you simply swear to believe and do as the government tells you?

    • #28
  29. Saint Augustine Member
    Saint Augustine
    @SaintAugustine

    Bryan G. Stephens (View Comment):

    Saint Augustine (View Comment):

    Bryan G. Stephens:

    What am I missing?

    The vital importance of punishing Trump and anyone who helps him.

    I did not even mention Trump. I am asking a more broad question.

    And I have no answer for it. Just an observation on how this connects to what the left wants juries to do in Trump trials.

    • #29
  30. TBA, sometimes known as 'Teebs'. Coolidge
    TBA, sometimes known as 'Teebs'.
    @RobtGilsdorf

    There is not a lot of honor in sending someone to prison or death who does not deserve to be sent and we have no problem condemning Germans who sent Jews to gas chambers though they could surely have pointed out that they had sworn oaths. 

    Ideally, following the law and following your conscience will align. But they don’t always. 

    Long after the trial is over, a juror has to be able to sleep at night. 

    Most importantly, the jury room is free of lawyers, judges, witnesses, and defendants. 

    Just twelve people who have to decide someone’s guilt and fate.  

    • #30
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