In our criminal justice system, defendants have the right to a trial by jury. This right is guaranteed in the Bill of Rights, specifically, the 6th Amendment. While the Constitution does set forth requirements as to the size of the jury, it does not require that the jury reach a unanimous verdict. A non-unanimous verdict is a verdict by a jury that is not the result of a unanimous vote. In Apodaca v. Oregon, the Supreme Court held that a 10-to-2 vote for conviction is constitutional. In Johnson v. Louisiana, the Supreme Court held that a 9-to-3 vote for conviction was constitutional. Given the defendant’s right to be proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, the lack of requirement for a unanimous verdict may beg the question as to whether it is appropriate to allow majority verdicts rather than unanimous verdicts.
For this discussion, consider the fact that the Supreme Court has discarded the argument that a less-than-unanimous verdict violates the reasonable doubt standard, stating that the term reasonable doubt refers to the individual juror and not the entire jury.
In your main post:
- Explore whether all criminal trials should require unanimous verdicts, using a related case as the basis for your position.
- Articulate two practical issues that might arise under unanimous verdict requirements.
- Describe the implications of non-unanimous jury verdicts as a criminal justice professional.