Unanimous Verdict vs. Majority Rules Verdicts

Essay by dorianaHigh School, 12th gradeA-, April 2006

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The use of a jury is the traditional method within the common law for deciding the facts in any dispute between parties. The role of a jury is to determine question of fact. The jury is in a powerful method because ultimately, it determines whether a person is guilty or innocent. In civil cases, the main function of the jury is to find the facts having regard to the evidence, and assess damages. The number of jurors used in a civil trial is less than that used in a criminal trial. Another important difference is that the verdict does not have to be unanimous, meaning that a judge will accept a majority decision of a civil jury.

Unanimity has long been considered as essential and fundamental part of jury trials. Unanimous decisions refer to the nature of the decision reached by a jury. All jury members must be in agreement as to the innocence or guilt of the accused in criminal cases or as to the liability of the defendant in civil cases.

Where all are in agreement, the verdict is said to be unanimous. A unanimous verdict must be given in a criminal proceedings involving treason or murder. In all other criminal offences a majority decision out of twelve, will be accepted.

Unanimity not only ensures that the minority viewpoint is heard, it gives people in the minority a vote of value, and hence enhances the representative character of the jury by ensuring the participation by individual citizens on the jury is real rather than illusionary. If a unanimous verdict is achieved, then in theory it corresponds to the level of proof required- in criminal offences being beyond reasonable doubt. Finally, the requirement of unanimous verdict ensures that the representative character and the collective nature of the jury...