In most cases the discussions that take place in a jury room when jurors are deliberating remain there. It is probably best, since the way in which they reach their decision can run from the ridiculous to the sublime. While I am not suggesting for even a moment that jurors have a frivolous attitude or approach to their deliberations, since they are mere mortals, they bring their strengths and weaknesses with them and things do not always proceed according to plan. Heated discussions of matters extraneous to their responsibility to arrive at a just verdict sometimes occur without warning. I know because it happened while deliberations were taking place in the only case on which I have ever served as a juror. These are the circumstances.
Practicing attorneys are not usually called for jury service. And it was not until long after I had retired as the Public Defender of the Twentieth Judicial Circuit in Florida and stopped practicing law altogether, that I became a juror for the first time. The defendant in the criminal case in which I served, faced a very minor misdemeanor charge of no particular interest to anyone other than those who could be affected by the outcome. But being selected was exciting because it gave me the opportunity to see how jurors would interact with one another from the inside.
Imagine my surprise when I became aware of the deeply held conviction of another juror, a relative of a prominent member of the law enforcement community, who voiced his opinion that I was unsuitable for jury service on that case because of my prior experience as a defense attorney. Naturally enough, I objected to his point of view, my mention of which got our deliberations off on the wrong foot almost from the very moment we arrived in the room. It seemed perfectly proper to that gentleman that he be there as a juror even though he had family connections to the law enforcement community. But he had an entirely different opinion on my legitimacy as a juror. My conclusion? There are none so blind as those who will not see.
Those deliberations were doomed by the attitude of that juror and the outcome a virtual certainty. The case ended with a “hung jury” because we were unable to reach a verdict. I don’t know if the case was ever retried or whether it was eventually disposed of in some other way, as perhaps by a plea bargain entered into between the prosecution and the defense . I expected to discuss the evidence in the case but the juror I mentioned had no wish to take the time to do that. In his mind, the defendant was guilty and there was no reason to deliberate any longer. All he wanted to do was go home and I was preventing him from doing that.
Jurors are obligated to carefully consider the evidence in the case and bring in a verdict that will do justice to those involved. Although that was not the outcome of the case on which I served, rest assured that in almost all cases tried by a jury the jurors are very diligent in the effort they make to discover the truth and justly decide the case.
Douglas M. Midgley, J.D. is the Author of this article. He is retired from the practice of law and his Florida Bar license is on inactive status. The content of this article and the opinions expressed are his own and the reader should not consider them to be legal advice. Since the law is constantly evolving and changing this article may or may not constitute an accurate statement of current Florida law when published and cannot be relied upon as such. If you have a current legal problem, consult a lawyer of your choice who is admitted to practice and in good standing with the appropriate Bar Association.