Duc, sequere, aut de via decede!

Jurors do not know what verdict they gave

January 2nd, 2007 . by Matt

This is a crazy story from my home, Australia. Apparently many jurors cannot accurately say what verdict they gave in the cases they decided.

A THROWAWAY question in a rare survey of jurors has produced a disturbing finding: most of the juries did not realise what verdict they had just delivered.

The 277 jurors were questioned immediately after delivering their verdicts in 25 NSW trials involving child sex assault.

The first question was “What was the verdict in the case?” But in only six of 25 juries surveyed could all the jurors correctly state their verdict.

In one trial, 10 jurors reported reaching three different verdicts.

In two other trials, jurors said they had found the accused innocent of some charges, when they had found the person guilty of all of them.

The NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research, which received permission to interview the jurors, had been conducting a study of the use of video evidence and had not expected to make a finding about the post-trial puzzlement of jurors.

In 40 per cent of the trials, at least one juror and as many as four who returned a not guilty verdict said, erroneously, that the judge had directed them to do so.

A barrister who has reviewed jury trials for the NSW Law Reform Commission, Paul Byrne, SC, said the results were disturbing but that most juries seemed to have a good grasp of their role.

“It is a fairly surprising thing that a jury, when surveyed, would get something as fundamental as a verdict wrong,” Mr Byrne said.

“In sex-assault prosecutions, there are often a number of different incidents and the jury is told pretty clearly that they are to give different verdicts for each count. I find it hard to believe they would not appreciate that. I would think that it is a relatively straightforward task and so important that they would not get it wrong.”

I wonder how many of the Jurors had trouble with the English language? A jury trial is supposed to be a trial of your “peers”, but it appears that their judgment cannot always be trusted. Considering that there are people that would like to see me “punished” for having this site, it makes me afraid that a jury trial could be the justice of a mob – in this case, a mob that does not even know what verdict it has given.

3 Responses to “Jurors do not know what verdict they gave”

  1. comment number 1 by: dogbert


  2. comment number 2 by: helical

    I believe Japan is trying to adopt the jury system. I first thought it was a good idea, but now I’m not so sure…

  3. comment number 3 by: empraptor

    If 5% of potential jurors are not capable of remembering the verdict they gave, the probability that all jurors in a trial remember the verdict (assuming 12-juror jury) is 54%.

    I suppose that still translates to small probability that 6 or less juries out of 25 remember the verdict. But the way the results are stated doesn’t imply only 6 out of 25 jurors remember verdicts. Translated to recall rate of individual jurors, the results should sound less dire. Same for jurors that can’t follow proper procedures.

    That said, yeah it is still scary.