During the Sandusky trial, MaleSurvivor Communications Committee Chair Thomas Hodson (who is himself a former attorney, trial judge, and is now a journalist) will be sharing with us some helpful explanations of the stages of a criminal trial. Our hope is that sharing this information here will help people better understand what is going on behind the scenes, and eliminate some of the confusion and uncertainty that will inevitably come up. Please follow our Twitter (@malesurvivorORG) and Facebook pages for more information and reactions as well.
Sandusky Trial: Jury Deliberations
As of 1:12 p.m. Eastern Time on Thursday, June 21, the jury began its deliberation. It has been asked to decide Jerry Sandusky’s fate on 48 of the 51 original charges.
Earlier today, the judge dismissed three charges concerning Victim No. 4 because there was no direct evidence to support those charges. The judge also charged the jurors with the law that they are obligated to follow in the case and explained what they need to do to decide the cases.
Now – all the counts of the case (48) rest in the hands of the jury. Any verdict must be unanimous. All 12 must agree on “guilty” or “not guilty.” If unanimity is not reached – the judge will push the jury to keep trying until he determines that no further deliberation would be useful in resolving any splits among the jurors. If that occurs, then the judge will find a hung jury and declare a mistrial on that charge.
All deliberations will be held in secret. The only people in the jury room are the 12 jurors. They will have with them all exhibits that were admitted during the course of the trial.
Each count and each charge must be examined and determined. In short, the jury is expected to make 48 separate decisions. If all of the counts of the charge are resolved, then the jury will reach 48 separate verdicts.
To facilitate the process, the jury will select a foreperson to lead the discussions and to make sure the process is orderly and that everyone’s opinion is heard. Usually, the jury will determine what facts it finds in the case – what is agreed upon by all jurors – related to each charge. Then the jury will apply the law – as given by the judge – to the facts to arrive at a verdict “beyond a reasonable doubt.”
This can be a daunting task and often juries take a great deal of time in their deliberations. The jury is under no time limit to arrive at the verdicts.
If jurors have questions during the deliberations, those questions are put in writing and submitted to the judge. The judge may either answer in writing or bring the jury back into the courtroom to answer the question orally in front of all the attorneys and the defendant.
If the deliberation takes overnight, then the jury will be sequestered – that means the jurors will be kept separate from their families and their homes. They will stay at a hotel and be guarded by sheriff deputies or police officers. This jury has been told that if the verdicts are not reached by the close of business on Friday, they will continue to be sequestered and continue their deliberation into the weekend.
If the jury arrives at a verdict on a particular charge, then the foreperson fills out the appropriate verdict form and indicates guilty or not guilty on the form. Then each juror signs the form to acknowledge agreement with the verdict.
Again, in this case, since there are 48 separate counts (separate charges), the jury will make 48 separate decisions.
Don’t be surprised if this deliberation takes quite a bit of time. It is an arduous task to examine 48 different incidents of alleged criminal behavior. Also, don’t expect a certain outcome by looking at how long a jury deliberates. Some juries move quicker than others and some are slow and methodical.
A key to the timing of the verdicts is whether there is essentially unanimity among the jurors on whatever verdict is chosen. Time is usually extended by the extent of disagreement. Also, please remember, that the defense not only was going for unanimous “not guilty” verdicts but also for dissention and for some jurors to “hold out” and claim the state did not prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt. If there are hold-outs, then the process takes longer.
Patience is the key and speculation is fruitless at this time.
The fates of Sandusky and the witnesses against him are now in the hands of these 12 individuals.