Have you ever wondered how a jury comes to a decision?
What would cause a jury to unanimously agree that the defendant is guilty?
During jury deliberations, a group of men and women decide whether the defendant is guilty of the crime he or she has been charged with.
For today’s article, I wanted to take some time to shed some light on what happens during jury deliberations.
The Case of Theodore Wafer
It was 4:30 am when Theodore Wafer, who works doing building maintenance at Detroit Metro Airport, heard a banging on his doors. Wafer went for his shotgun, opened the door because he thought someone was trying to get in and fired the shot gun.
Wafer testified in court that he was trying to protect himself. Unfortunately, that statement didn’t align well with another statement in the eyes of the jurors. Wafer had also told the police when they arrived that he didn’t know the gun was loaded.
The Detroit Free Press reported that the two conflicting statements are what lead to a verdict by the second day of deliberations.
Yet, it wasn’t the conflicting statements alone. One juror told the Detroit Free Press,
“The juror said the defense went to emotions, while prosecutors relied on evidence.”
How does this happen? How does a jury come to a decision? What happens in the jury room? Let’s take a look at the answers to those questions.
Jury’s Great Responsibility
The jury carries a great responsibility. They hold the future of the defendant’s life in their hands. When considering the case, the jury must remain impartial and bias-free. They are only to take into consideration the evidence.
In the case of Theodore Wafer, the evidence is exactly what one jury said was what the case hinged on.
What Happens in Jury Deliberations?
How does a jury of 12 men and women agree and in the case above come to a unanimous on day two? Let’s break down the process step-by-step.
Step 1: Before the Deliberations
This process starts before anyone enters into a room. Both the prosecution and the defense have the opportunity to present their positions. Each side presents the evidence that supports their argument in the closing arguments.
After the closing arguments and the jury heard the instructions or the legal rules the jury heads to the jury room to deliberate.
Step 2: The Jury Room
The first thing to note is that while there are some things that are typical for a jury to do, there aren’t any set guidelines. In an article written by Lawyers.com, the author provided a list of examples to help the process run smoothly. These examples include:
- Elect a presiding juror. This person’s job is to ensure discussions focus on the evidence and law. They are also in charge of the voting process.
- Give everyone a chance to speak.
- Every juror is to respect the opinions of the other jurors.
- Examine all the evidence.
- Discuss each crime one at a time.
Step 3: The Vote
The goal is to reach a unanimous decision. There a two different ways the vote can be counted. Either the jurors can vote by raising their hands or by ballot.
Before voting, it is recommended allowing each juror to speak their thoughts on the case.
If the jury is unable to agree, the court may have them sequestered, meaning they are seclude from all outside influence. The sequestered jury cannot go home. If the jury has not sequestered, then they can go home.
Step 4: The Verdict
The jury will return with the verdict once they have voted and agreed. The jury will read the verdict out loud in the court room.
To ensure that the verdict is accurate the defendant or the prosecutor has the option to request to poll the jury. That means to ask each juror to confirm the verdict separately.
The Take Away
In the case of Theodore Wafer, the use of emotion and self-defense didn’t work. The jury instead looked at the evidence and the conflicting statements to come to their unanimous decision. For more on the Wafer case, please visit the Detroit Free Press.
Please remember that this information is not meant as legal advice. It is being offered as free information to help inform you on the subject of jury deliberations.
If you or someone you know is facing a criminal trial, your best bet is to contact an experienced attorney that will fight diligently for your rights and one with a proven track record. Please call my office at:
248-348-7400 or 586-530-1000