Let’s talk about being on a jury.
We know that juries are made up of 12 people that are most likely strangers to each other and that they have been given the important task of assessing evidence and the law to determine whether a defendant is guilty or not guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
We also know that when we serve as jurors, we can’t take this task lightly; it has long term consequences for a fellow citizen. That is to say that when you are chosen for a jury, your schedule, just like the schedules of the rest of the jurors, will be disrupted, but you should not attempt to hurry the process of deliberations in any way.
The judge will also give you guidance on how to be on a jury. That is, jurors should stick to the law as described, the evidence in the case, and the facts as reported. You may even be shown a short video beforehand that outlines your duties as a juror.
It is the hope that jurors will come to deliberations with open minds and full consideration to the opinions of fellow juror. But what if you are the one of 12 who has a dissenting opinion? What if you feel pressured, or even bullied, into changing your vote?
First, make every effort to reach a unanimous decision by respectfully listening to and speaking with your peers. While changing your mind is perfectly okay, changing your vote to hurry up the deliberations or because you feel pressured is not okay. That is, your vote should be your vote.
Second, if you cannot come to a consensus, you can send a note to the judge that says as much. The judge may then give you what is known as an “Allen Charge,” which basically means that s/he will send you back to the jury room to deliberate some more. However, you shouldn’t change your honest conviction just because the judge has sent you back to deliberate some more. You may have to go over evidence again, or go back to the beginning of the case again.
Now, if you are selected for a jury, you should have a reasonable expectation that you will not be bullied. If you find that other jurors are behaving improperly, first ask your foreperson to keep the discussion on track and respectful. If this doesn’t work, you may report the improper behavior directly to the judge.
If there is a mistrial due to failure to come to a consensus, and you have honestly and conscientiously cast your vote, you have done your service as a juror.
In the Tanner case, Tanner v. United States, 483 U.S. 107 (1987)
, the jurors while in the service of being a jury, were drunk, they were high, they were even selling drugs to each other. A judge in this case decided that the jury is a, “black box,” by which he meant that nothing could be done once the jurors entered the jury room to deliberate. However, there is one exception to this rule, and it is this: If a juror or jurors seem to be ethnically or racially motivated (by making comments to this effect), the decision of the jury may be found to be invalid. You can find more information on this here: https://law.marquette.edu/facultyblog/2017/03/24/supreme-court-permits-some-light-into-the-black-box-of-jury-deliberations/