Thursday, August 04, 2005

Seventh Amendment

The Seventh Amendment provides that the right to a trial by jury of one's peers shall be preserved in all cases at law where the question shall exceed 20 dollars. Apparently, this doesn't mean that the jurors have the right to be informed. In a recent decision in New York, a Manhattan judge overturned a decision where two New York City police officers were acquitted on charges of sexually harrassing subordinates.
From the article:
"Under the facts presented here and the applicable law, this court has no alternative but to reluctantly set aside the jury's verdict," Supreme Court Justice Lottie E. Wilkins wrote in Ryan v. City of New York, 11554/01. "The reading of the dictionary definition of 'preponderance' with its various differences from the definition in the court's charge on the law, creates a sufficient likelihood that the plaintiffs were prejudiced."
That's right. Because the jury tried to determine what Preponderance means in English, they prejudiced the plaintiffs and the plaintiffs were not given a fair trial.


mlwhitt said...

So basically during jury selection all potential jury members should be asked to define "Preponderance" and state what "Preponderance of the law" means.

I think you should have to take an IQ test before you can sit on a jury.

Steve said...

I could see that in Voir Dire. "Juror 6, can you spell 'preponderance,' and use it in a sentence?"

Michelle said...

OMG! Unbelieveable. I had a matter where 5 men where charged with murder.....3 of them were charged with gb harm. Basically, it was a drug deal gone wrong. The victim did arunner with $1000, the dealers came after him beat him,dumped a block of concrete on his head,cut his feet off and buried him at the beach.

The jury found all 5 not guilty of murder because they felt the 5 showed NO INTENT TO KILL

All 5 are behind bars serving 10 years for grevious bodily harm!

Cassie said...

Ok, so I'm not a law student or anything but I do watch Law and Order sometimes and I still don't understand...

So I'm allowed to drop concrete on someone's head, cut off his feet, bury him and then say "oops, I didn't mean to kill him" and get away with it?

Steve said...

If the people who did the acts knew with sufficient certainty that their acts would kill the person, then they would be found guilty of murder here in the states. If the man who died died during the commission of a felony, in many states, that would lead to a felony murder charge, where intent isn't necessary (neither is death at the hands of the charged, for that matter). I can't speak for Aussie law, because I've not taken Australian Criminal law yet, however, if I have that available as an elective, perhaps I will.

Michelle said...

OK please let me clarify for you. As stated, that is exactly what the 5 did. The jury however could not come together beyond reasonable doubt that the 5 set out from the start to murder this kid. That is, when they realised the kid had stolen their money, all decide...lets murder him! The defense stated in closing, yes certainly the five went after the kid to get their money, but did they all have a pre meditated plan to kill him = murder. If ot pre meditated = manslaughter or...grevious bodily harm!
Let me tell you, from a prosecutions end its damn depressing. I had clients in witness protection who were in fer for their lives, when i made that cal to let them know what the jury came back with......devistating.
Criminal law in America is very different, much harsher than here. You really have a "law and order" mentality...lock em up, throw away the key. We are not so quick to do so. Many aussies would love to see a tougher approach, personally i'd rather have what we have now, but no parole, which is where our system falls down. We let them out too early, they never serve a full sentence.