Rant of the Week

Shut-up and Vote
With the Rest of Us


The jurors in the Heidgen case apparently considered that. Twice they sent the judge a note saying they were deadlocked. After the fourth day of deliberations, an 8-to-4 majority in favor of a murder conviction became 10 to 2, according to the jurors. In the fifth day, the last two holdouts joined the majority. But one of those two, the jury forewoman, said later that she had felt unbearably pressured by other jurors. She said she was still convinced that Mr. Heidgen was guilty of manslaughter, not murder.
New York Times, October 21, 2006

God help you if someone is on trial for his life, as Mr. Heidgen was, and you are on a jury and you are in the minority that doesn't believe that drunk driving is the same thing as taking a knife and stabbing it into someone's chest, even if the results of your criminal foolishness are very, very bad. 

You will not have the option of voting against conviction on the more serious charge-- murder.  This is for a man who was DUI and got into an accident causing the death of a 7-year-old girl.  Some members of the jury, while agreeing to convict of manslaughter, felt that what he did was not the same as taking a gun and shooting someone. 

What is going on here?  This is bizarre.  We have a jury system.  The prosecution presents its case.  The defense presents their counter arguments, the jury discusses the case, and then they vote. 

I don't think it's unreasonable to ask a deadlocked jury to go back, discuss some more, and then hold a second or even a third vote.  But when some jurors declare that they are not willing to vote guilty and the judge sends them back over and over and over again, even after the rest of the jury has declared itself to be deadlocked, the judge is essentially ordering a verdict of guilty.  He is essentially over-ruling the jury system: because in the jury system a man is not guilty unless the entire jury finds him guilty.  Clearly, this jury, after what any sane person would deem "reasonable" discussion, did not attain unanimity.  It should have been released and sent home.  (Actually, they would have found Heidgen guilty of manslaughter instead of murder, which would have been, given the circumstances, a more reasonable outcome.)

But then Neil Flynn would have been very, very unhappy.

 And the prosecutor, who was elected on a platform of getting tough on drunk drivers, would have been unhappy.  And the judge himself, also facing election, would have been unhappy.

So the majority of the jury was allowed to continue bullying and intimidating the remaining jurors until they got their way.  There was no other result that will bring an end to the psychological torture being inflicted on the minority jurors.

This was a kangaroo court. 

As difficult as it might be to summon any sympathy at all for a man who drives with three times the legal limit of alcohol in his blood and causes an accident that takes the life of a young girl....  Mr. Heidgen deserves better.  We all do.


All contents © 2006 Bill Van Dyk All rights reserved.