• May 31, 2009

Amicus Brief Opposing Non-Unanimous Juries

This month we filed a brief in the U.S. Supreme Court arguing that the Sixth Amendment right to a jury trial, as applied to the States through the Fourteenth Amendment, does not allow a criminal conviction based on a non-unanimous jury verdict. Our brief explains how thirty-five years of empirical research casts grave doubt on the idea that no functional difference exists between unanimous and non-unanimous juries. Indeed, research conclusively shows that unanimous juries are more careful, more thorough, and return verdicts that are more aligned with what experienced observers of the criminal legal system (generally judges) view to be the correct verdict.

Moreover, recent historical scholarship indicates that one of the original purposes of the non-unanimous jury was to functionally silence the views of racial and ethnic minorities and women, and suggests that the current operation of non-unanimous juries de facto accomplishes that purpose. Eliminating the traditional unanimity requirement marginalizes the viewpoints of dissenting jurors because jurors in the majority refuse to deliberate further once the threshold has been reached. This concern applies to all juries and all jurors, but its effects can be particularly stark when those holding minority viewpoints are historic victims of discrimination, including women, people of color and religious minorities.

Read our brief:

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