Does Size Really Matter?

A Nate Silver wannabe breaks down the question of whether jury size matters in these jurisdictions, where a jury’s verdict does not have to be unanimous. Clearly, the greater concern is in criminal cases where it does seem a bit odd to convict someone to life in prison, as you can in Louisiana, on a 9-3 vote.

In a civil personal injury case, the question is whether there is a 51% chance that the defendant is responsible and a 51% chance that the injuries were caused by the negligence. Given that, does it really make sense that Maryland requires civil juries to be unanimous? Why not allow juries to make the call at 5-1 or 4-2 calltall just like an appellate court can? Here’s another fun rule I would propose: let the judge break the tie if it is 3-3. Of course, if this were the rule, the judge couldn’t exactly walk out of the room with some excuse of court business during a videotaped deposition as many want to do.

Few institutions in 2013 require unanimity to reach a decision because we don’t want to be held up by the obstinacy of the one naysayer who disagrees with the group just to go against the grain. There is no question that some jurors make decisions on cases and refuse to admit facts that contradict position.

This Slate article focuses on the final outcome because, in a criminal trial, that is what matters. Ultimately, there are not a lot of hung juries. I have only had one in my career. But what about damage awards in a civil trial? I think the against-the-grain juror seems to be the one who wants to knock damages back in cases where we get a good result. I worry that one juror has a disproportionate influence over the final outcome.

Finally, the woman above is 7 feet tall. Pretty amazing right? Just trying to have a little fun with the headline and the Wilt Chamberlain-like model on a Friday. Have a good weekend!

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