17 February 2014

A Jury That Did Not Compromise

In the trial of Michael Dunn for killing Jordan Davis, the instructions to the jury offered the possible charges of first-, second-, and third-degree murder, plus manslaughter. That’s routine in such trials.

The jury couldn’t reach a verdict on that part of the trial. We may hear more from jurors this week. So far most of the commentary I’ve seen has focused on the fact that at least one juror (and possibly as many as eleven) was unable to see Dunn’s shooting and subsequent lies as clear evidence of murder.

The hung jury also suggests that at least one juror (and possibly as many as eleven) couldn’t see Dunn’s actions as anything less than first-degree murder. For centuries juries in the British and American legal tradition have compromised on verdicts that might not accord with the evidence but struck them as most just, given the facts of the case and the punishments involved. In this case, I suspect, some of the jurors felt that any such compromise would deny the enormity of Michael Dunn’s actions.

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