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November 25, 2015

When Good Juries Make Bad Verdicts

shutterstock_121506394In a court of law it may feel like you are at the mercy of a judge or jury and, in many ways, that is accurate. In Arizona, your criminal attorney’s job is to represent you in a way that casts reasonable doubt on the prosecution’s case. It’s nice to prove innocence, but not necessarily required for a court to reach a verdict of “not guilty.” The judge knows the legal system and has seen every trick in the book when it comes to presenting new cases. The jury, on the other hand, is a panel of citizens who may or may not know what they are about to walk into.

The jury has likely been chosen for the specific mix of lifestyle traits and personal biases they hold. The jury can be an even mix of sensible, gullible and emotional. In addition to personal differences, juries are subject to a variety of additional factors that could make them rush through the decision-making process:

  • Upcoming holidays
  • Children at home
  • Family events
  • Deadlines at work
  • Hunger
  • Exhaustion

Other situations can complicate a jury’s findings. Witnesses who are unable to make positive IDs can create trouble for both sides of a case. In one situation reported by an anonymous prosecution attorney, police officers sat in the front row of the courtroom to support the defendant. While the evidence clearly supported a conviction, the jury returned a verdict of “not guilty” due to fear of retribution. Intimidation tactics are not common in American courtrooms, but similar situations where the defendant has a “posse” can make an impact on the case.

A study authored by Bruce Spencer of Northwestern University concluded that “In a set of 271 cases from four areas, juries gave wrong verdicts in at least one out of eight cases.”

“If you were on trial and not guilty, you certainly would want the jury to do the right thing,” Spencer said. “Now, subject to these assumptions, studies could be employed to give us an idea of how often that happens.”

There is hope for defendants who have been falsely convicted of a crime. While Arizona state law does not allow for actual expungement of a conviction, the decision can be “set aside,” which has a similar effect. Similarly, your Phoenix, Arizona criminal lawyer can walk you through the options, which may include an appeal to have a higher court reverse the decision entirely. Call The Blumenreich Law Firm today or complete our contact form to claim a free consultation.