In every state in the United States, criminal defendants have the right to have their trial heard and decided by a jury. While this right does not necessarily extend to all types of criminal charges, it is still invoked by many thousands of criminal defendants every year across the country. In some ways, juries can be a great benefit for defendants. Juries often use a commonsense approach when considering evidence as well as their own sense of what is right and wrong. However, juries can also pose a serious risk to defendants.
Jurors are ordinary people from local communities who are called into court to serve. A summons for jury duty is often met with groans of disappointment as it can sometimes be tedious and take you away from work and your family. However, most jurors rise to the occasion and do their best to reach fair and just verdicts. However, jurors are also not legally trained or educated and may not apply the law correctly to your case. They also may not be used to seeing inflammatory or upsetting evidence and may think emotionally rather than logically.
If you are facing an upcoming criminal trial, you should speak with our Utah criminal defense attorneys for help. We can help you weigh the pros and cons of juries and discuss the possibility of waiving your right to a jury trial in favor of a bench trial. Call Overson Law, PLLC at (801) 758-2287 to arrange a free consultation.
How Jurors Reach a Verdict in a Criminal Trial in Utah
Jurors are important because they are regular people. Having jurors decide the outcome of criminal trials puts justice in the hands of the people rather than judges or elected officials who may be out of touch with local communities. Jurors are free to apply the law in a way that used common sense and embraces a more down-to-earth view of justice. However, this kind of discretion can sometimes backfire.
Jurors are free to use their common sense and ideas of justice and morality, but they are also free to accept or ignore evidence as they see fit. While jurors should be considering all the evidence very critically, they can sometimes choose to ignore the evidence for superficial reasons. Perhaps a witness gives strong testimony in your defense, but the jury decides to ignore them because they seem “rough around the edges.” Jurors do not always make the best decisions and sometimes let their emotions or biases get in the way.
If you are a criminal defendant with an upcoming trial, call our Layton criminal defense lawyers for guidance and assistance.
Emotionally Charged Evidence Might Sway a Jury in a Criminal Trial in Utah
Jurors are just ordinary people from your local community and many of them may not be prepared to see certain kinds of evidence. Depending on the nature of your charges, evidence could be gruesome and hard to swallow. For violent crimes, jurors may be deeply affected by photos of an injured victim or a bloody crime scene, even if there is other more substantial evidence in your favor. Seeing upsetting evidence in a movie or on television is not the same as seeing it in real life. Sometimes, jurors can be very shocked and upset by evidence and they can be very easily turned against you.
Jurors may also be overly sympathetic toward certain kinds of victims. For example, victims who are children, elderly, or pregnant women tend to evoke a deep emotional response from juries. Even when the evidence is on your side, a sympathetic victim can make a jury overly critical of otherwise reliable evidence in your favor.
Juries can also be susceptible to fear. Prosecutors will often try to sway a jury to their side by making them believe that a defendant is dangerous and poses a safety risk to the public. Fear can be an immensely powerful emotion and can easily make a jury want to convict. Because jurors tend to be from the same communities as the defendants, they know that allowing a defendant to go free means allowing them back into their own town or city. In such a case, the fear that you are dangerous, even if the evidence says otherwise, can heavily impact a jury verdict.
For help with your jury trial, call our South Jordan criminal defense lawyers right away. We can help you create an effective defense strategy to prove your case to a jury.
How Verdicts Are Affected by Jury Biases in Utah Criminal Trials
Juries are meant to be completely impartial when considering evidence and deliberating. Juries are under strict instructions to consider the evidence and reach a verdict without letting personal biases get in the way. During jury selection, jurors are screened for potential biases that could harm the integrity of the trial. Unfortunately, there are times when biased jurors make it through the screening process. This may be because the juror is unaware of their own biases. This may also be because the attorneys doing the screening failed to ask the right questions.
Potential biases include big issues like race, religion, ethnicity, and sexual orientation. Biases could also be more specific or niche, like if a juror was the victim of a similar crime, or someone close to them was a victim, they may be more inclined to find the defendant guilty. Also, if a juror has a friend or family member who is a prosecutor or police officer, they could be biased against the defense.
It is also possible that a juror may not have any biases against the defendant, but may have biases in favor of the victim. Parents may be especially sympathetic to child victims, and female jurors may identify with female victims of certain crimes. While these biases are not explicitly against the defendant, they do not work out in their favor.
Call our Murray criminal defense attorneys for help with your upcoming criminal trial. We can help you select a jury that is impartial, fair, and not tainted by bias.
Call Our Utah Criminal Defense Lawyers for a Free and Confidential Legal Consultation
If you are facing criminal charges, contact our Utah criminal defense lawyers right away. Selecting a jury is more than just a stepping stone to your trial. The jury holds your fate in their hands. Selecting a fair jury is paramount to a fair trial. Call Overson Law, PLLC at (801) 758-2287 to arrange a free consultation.