In New South Wales it is possible to be found guilty of a crime with only a majority of the jury agreeing. After a jury has been deliberating for at least 8 hours a judge may tell a jury that they can deliver a majority verdict of 11-1. The Judge must consider that the jury has been deliberating for a reasonable time taking into account the nature and complexity of the case. This raises serious questions about the integrity of the criminal justice system and the fairness to the accused if convicted by a majority verdict.
It seems reasonable to think that if one person doesn’t think that you are guilty then that equals ‘a reasonable doubt’ and you should not be found guilty. Imagine how you would feel if you were found guilty but you knew that one person on the jury was not convinced you were guilty.
Of course majority verdicts can be used to acquit people but experience shows that most majority verdicts are where people are found guilty! And of course there are still juries that can’t decide so the system of majority verdicts has done little or nothing to improve the criminal justice system.
Recently Mr Phillip Gibson discussed this issue on ABC Radio Morning program with host Deb Cameron and Associate Professor Jane Goodman-Delahunty from University of New South Wales.
Professor Delahunty, who has done research on juries, said that most majority verdicts started out with more than one dissenting juror. This wipes out the argument that we need majority verdicts to overcome ‘rogue’ jurors.