I had thought I would be sentenced to death based on the emotions and anger toward me for the deaths on Sept. 11. But after reviewing the jury verdict and reading how the jurors set aside their emotions and disgust for me and focused on the law and the evidence ... I now see that it is possible that I can receive a fair trial even with Americans as jurors.
A lawyer once told a jury that the person his client stood accused of having killed was about to walk through the courtroom door. When the jurors looked startled, the lawyer asserted that if those jurors had wondered, even for one second that the victim might appear, that belief constituted enough reasonable doubt for them to find his client innocent.
Jury instructions are so numerous and complex, it's a wonder jurors ever wade through them. And so it should come as no surprise that they can sometimes get stuck along the way. The instruction on circumstantial evidence is confusing even to lawyers. And reasonable doubt? That's the hardest, most elusive one of all.
When jurors are forced to spend day and night with each other, apart from their families and friends, they become a tribe unto themselves. Because they only have each other for company, and because most people prefer harmony to discord, there's a natural desire to cooperate, to compromise in order to reach agreement.
Jurors realize that instead of having to make that terrible decision (voting for the death penalty), they can vote to put someone in prison and ensure that defendant is no longer a harm to society. It makes it easier for them to return a verdict of life without the possibility of parole.
Robert Falcon Scott
During voir dire, the interviews for jury selection, each person is asked under oath about their experience with the criminal justice system, as defendant or victim, but usually not even the most elementary effort is made to corroborate those claims. One ADA [Associate District Attorney] told me about inheriting a murder case, after the first jury deadlocked. He checked the raps for the jurors and found that four had criminal records. None of those jurors were prosecuted. Nor was it policy to prosecute defense witnesses who were demonstrably lying-by providing false alibis, for example-because, as another ADA told me, if they win the case, they don't bother, and if they lose, "it looks like sour grapes." A cop told me about a brawl at court one day, when he saw court officers tackle a man who tried to escape from the Grand Jury. An undercover was testifying about a buy when the juror recognized him as someone he had sold to. Another cop told me about locking up a woman for buying crack, who begged for a Desk Appearance Ticket, because she had to get back to court, for jury duty-she was the forewoman on a Narcotics case, of course. The worst part about these stories is that when I told them to various ADAs, none were at all surprised; most of those I'd worked with I respected, but the institutionalized expectations were abysmal. They were too used to losing and it showed in how they played the game.
The twelve jurors were all writing very busily on the slates. "What are they doing?" Alice whispered to the Gryphon. "They can't have anything to put down yet, before the trial's begun." "They're putting down their names, " the Gryphon whispered in reply, "for fear they should forget them before the end of the trial.
Justice requires lawyers who are prepared, witnesses who tell the truth, judges who know the law, and jurors who stay awake. Justice is the North Star, the burning bush, the holy virgin. It cannot be bought, sold, or mass produced. It is intangible, ineffable, and invisible, but if you are to spend your life in its pursuit, it is best to believe it exists, and that you can attain it.
The trial by jury is a trial by 'the country,' in contradistinction to a trial by the government. The jurors are drawn by lot from the mass of the people, for the very purpose of having all classes of minds and feelings, that prevail among the people at large, represented in the jury.
Since natural law was thought to be accessible to the ordinary man, the theory invited each juror to inquire for himself whether a particular rule of law was consonant with principles of higher law. This view is reflected in John Adams' statement that it would be an 'absurdity' for jurors to be required to accept the judge's view of the law, 'against their own opinion, judgment, and conscience.'
Many jurors are forced to muddle through this life-and-death decision-making process confused about their duty and mired in inaccurate media-based stereotypes. To truly improve the reliability and fairness of the decision-making process in capital cases, overarching reforms would be needed to break down the network of social psychological forces that are at work.
Jokes and media slurs about rape and its survivors not only desensitize the issue but also have an impact on rape conviction rates! "Widespread 'myths and stereotypes' about rape victims may give jurors 'preconceived ideas' that could affect their decisions in court. When victims were demonised in the media, you can see how juries would bring their preconceptions to bear." -Alison Saunders, head of the Crown Prosecution Service, UK.
Alison Saunders head of the Crown Prosecution Service
To vest a few fallible men - prosecutors, judges, jurors - with vast powers of literary or artistic censorship, to convert them into what J.S. Mill called the "moral police" is to make them despotic arbiters of literary products... If one day they ban mediocre books as obscene, another day they may do otherwise to a work of a genius. Originality, not too plentiful, should be cherished, not stifled. An author's imagination may be cramped if he must write with an eye on prosecutors or juries...
The terrible state of public education has paid huge dividends in ignorance. Huge. We now have a country that can be told blatant lies -- easily checkable, blatant lies -- and I'm not talking about the covert workings of the CIA. When we have a terrorist attack, on September 11, 2001 with 19 men -- 15 of them are Saudis -- and five minutes later the whole country thinks they're from Iraq -- how can you have faith in the public? This is an easily checkable fact. The whole country is like the O. J. Simpson jurors.
Jurors have found, again and again, and at critical moments, according to what is their sense of the rational and just. If their sense of justice has gone one way, and the case another, they have found "against the evidence," ... the English common law rests upon a bargain between the Law and the people: The jury box is where the people come into the court: The judge watches them and the people watch back. A jury is the place where the bargain is struck. The jury attends in judgment, not only upon the accused, but also upon the justice and the humanity of the Law.
E. P. Thompson