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Jury Disagreements in Criminal Trials - Some Victorian Evidence

NCJ Number
Australian and New Zealand Journal of Criminology Volume: 16 Issue: 1 Dated: (March 1983) Pages: 20-30
J Willis
Date Published
11 pages
Evidence of the disposition of cases resulting in a jury disagreement in Victoria (Australia) casts doubt on the assumption that in most of these cases guilty persons are avoiding conviction because of the perversity of one or two jurors, but other issues must also be considered in evaluating the benefits of majority jury verdicts.
Data were taken from court dispositions in the Supreme Court and County Court of Victoria for 1972-79. The call for majority verdicts, which is derived largely from dissatisfaction at the present acquittal rate in trials of close to 50 percent, is premised to a considerable degree on the assumption that guilty persons are escaping conviction because of the obstinacy or corruption of one or two jurors. The fact that conviction rates on retrial (caused by jury disagreement in the first trial) were found to be lower than the average conviction rates for the period must cast considerable doubt on the assumption that jury disagreements are generally the result of a minority of obstinate or corrupt jurors refusing to convict. Similarly, if it is accepted that the result subsequent to a jury disagreement is what would have been reached under a majority verdict system, it appears that a majority verdict system would not increase the overall conviction rate. Other arguments for a majority jury verdict include the cost of retrials under the unanimous verdict, the need to minimize the possibility of intimidation and corruption of jurors, fairness, justice, and community satisfaction with the criminal justice system. All of these issues must be carefully examined when considering the pros and cons of a majority jury verdict. Thirty-two notes are provided.


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