I have been noticing a disturbing trend over the past two years. More potential jurors want convictions. Some want so badly to return a verdict of guilty that they are willing to ignore the law in order to find the person guilty. How have I discovered this fact? During my twenty years of practice, I have developed a number of questions that I ask potential jurors in order to determine if they could be fair and impartial to my client. One of these questions simply asks the potential juror if he or she would make the State of Ohio prove each and every element of the offense beyond a reasonable doubt before making a finding of guilty. I go one step further and ask what the juror would do if the State proves all but one element beyond a reasonable doubt, with that one missing element being close but not quite there. In my first eighteen years of practice, every potential juror answered this question correctly, which was to return a verdict of not guilty. The first six of those years were spent as an assistant prosecutor, watching other defense attorneys ask various versions of this same question. The other twelve of those years, I asked that question as the criminal defense attorney.
Starting in 2012, I have gotten several potential jurors in more than one county tell me they would find the person guilty anyway. I just about fell over when I heard this for the first time in my legal career. Each time, I used a follow-up question to determine if they really believed that. Because these potential jurors were in rural counties, I used an example that works in the rural communities in which I tend to practice: if you were traveling 45 m.p.h. on an unmarked country road and were stopped for traveling 45 m.p.h. in a 25 m.p.h. zone, would you find yourself guilty? I further explain that there are no 25 m.p.h. signs for at least 20 miles in either direction and that the default speed limit for a country road is 45 m.p.h. I had several potential jurors say that they would still be guilty. One potential juror recently exclaimed that speeding is different than the serious crime they were there to decide that day. None of these jurors remained on my clients’ juries. In fact, most of them were excused for cause, which means that the judge felt that the juror would not follow the law but would convict someone on less than evidence beyond a reasonable doubt. The fact still remained that more potential jurors want convictions.
Our system of justice is based upon the principal that every element of every crime must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt before a jury may find someone guilty. I found it quite unfortunate that some people seemed quite willing to trade their own freedom to surrender this concept in the name of not letting suspects get away with crime. That speeding example is one that we can all relate to. If one was traveling 60 m.p.h. in a marked 45 m.p.h. zone, that person may acknowledge that they violated the law. If that same person was traveling 45 m.p.h. on a similar street, but was stopped for doing 20 m.p.h. over the speed limit without the benefit of notice (ie a posted speed limit sign) and the road appears to be a 45 m.p.h. zone, that person should feel wronged. That wrong should have a remedy—the court of law. Just as that person should not have to pay a fine and have points assessed to their license, someone charged with a more serious offense should not have to go to prison if the state cannot prove all the elements beyond a reasonable doubt. By the way, the burden of proof is the same for all criminal offenses, whether it is speeding, felony domestic violence, disorderly conduct or murder.
I certainly hope this is not the start of a growing trend where it will be increasingly difficult to find fair jurors. Fortunately, the overwhelming majority of potential jurors still believe in the American system of justice, which includes forcing the state to prove each and every element of the offense beyond a reasonable doubt. Fortunately, there have been some recent exceptions to the “more potential jurors want convictions” theory.
To learn more, read my other related posts, where I wrote about adult sentences can be imposed in some Ohio juvenile cases, do Ohio judges agree with agreed sentences, Ohio legislature reduces prison terms, how to get less jail time in Ohio, Ohio jail time credit, changes to Ohio DUI laws, theft can be a felony in Ohio, are there shoplifting laws in Ohio, and sealing Ohio convictions. I have successfully defended individuals for both misdemeanor and felony offenses, many of them with tough jurors, as set forth in the case highlights section. My hard work and results are reflected in the positive reviews from my clients: Daniel Gigiano reviews; Daniel Gigiano ratings; and Daniel Gigiano work.
Attorney Gigiano’s office is located in Medina County, Ohio. If you have questions about whether it is still true that more potential jurors want convictions or other questions you need answered by an experienced Wadsworth criminal defense attorney in Medina County, please call Attorney Daniel F. Gigiano at 330-336-3330. Attorney Gigiano has tried over thirty-five jury trials to a verdict, many of them in Medina County, Summit County and Wayne County.