Ten Angry Men: Unanimous Jury Verdicts in Criminal Trials and Incorporation after McDonald

By Riordan, Kate | Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology, Fall 2011 | Go to article overview

Ten Angry Men: Unanimous Jury Verdicts in Criminal Trials and Incorporation after McDonald


Riordan, Kate, Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology


I. INTRODUCTION

Any American who has watched a legal drama on television or in film would assume that a criminal conviction can occur only if a jury of twelve persons votes unanimously. (1) But, as with most assumptions about the legal world, this one is incorrect; it is wholly constitutional for an accused to be convicted of a crime without twelve guilty votes. (2) In criminal trials, the Constitution requires neither that the jury be comprised of twelve persons (3) nor that the vote be unanimous. (4)

Williams v. Florida (upholding the constitutionality of six-person juries) and Apodaca v. Oregon (upholding the constitutionality of non-unanimous majority verdicts in criminal trials) can be easily reconciled with one another, as they both concern common-law requirements for criminal trials upon which the Constitution is silent. But the application of these two holdings is far more problematic. Williams, which considered the constitutionality of Florida's six-person criminal juries, held that neither federal nor state trials need to utilize a twelve-person jury. (5) However, Apodaca upheld the constitutionality of non-unanimous majority verdicts only in state criminal trials. (6) In federal criminal trials, the Supreme Court has found that the verdict must be unanimous. (7) Apodaca's holding, the product of an odd split among the Justices, is the reason why there are at present two jurisdictions in the United States where a defendant can be found guilty of a crime by just ten out of twelve votes: the states of Oregon and Louisiana. (8)

Apodaca remains good law, and that fact is problematic for three reasons. The first and timeliest reason is that the Court set forth an incorporation standard in McDonald v. City of Chicago that directly undermines the current two-track approach to unanimity in criminal trials. (9) Secondly, allowing majority verdicts in criminal trials seriously weakens the beyond-a-reasonable-doubt standard. (10) And finally, empirical research has since disproven the assumptions about jury behavior upon which the plurality in Apodaca relied. (11)

This is not a purely academic debate. The Apodaca decision not only affects Louisiana and Oregon; similar legislation has been proposed in other states that would allow for majority verdicts in criminal trials in attempts to be "tough on crime." (12) State representatives from both California and Colorado have introduced bills in their respective legislatures that would allow for majority verdicts in criminal cases. (13) More recently, in 2003, the New York State Assembly considered a majority-verdict proposal couched as an anti-crime initiative aiming to "produce more convictions and put more criminals behind bars." (14) The bill's sponsors claimed that the unanimity requirement resulted in a "higher crime rate" and "disrespect for the law." (15) As of yet, these proposals have failed and no state (besides Oregon and Louisiana) has adopted a majority-verdict provision for criminal trials. (16) But in some states majority-verdict proposals are introduced fairly frequently, as there is obvious and powerful political capital to be gained from increasing conviction rates, regardless of the means by which one does so. (17)

Defendants in Oregon and Louisiana continue to object to their state's practices. Scott Bowen was accused in Oregon of multiple felony sex offenses, including first-degree rape, alleged to have occurred between 1991 and 2000. (18) During his trial, he requested a jury instruction that the verdict shall be unanimous. (19) His request was denied and he was convicted by a vote of ten to two; "[i]n forty-eight states, the jurors would have been required to continue deliberating toward consensus. ... But because this case arose in Oregon, petitioner stands convicted." (20) The Supreme Court denied cert in 2009. (21)

More recently, Alonso Herrera was convicted on a ten-to-two vote of unauthorized use of a vehicle.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Ten Angry Men: Unanimous Jury Verdicts in Criminal Trials and Incorporation after McDonald
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.