Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Juries to have a say in Sentencing....over my dead body!!

NSW's most senior judge has called for jurors to become involved in sentencing for serious crime, saying it would improve decision making and public confidence in the judiciary.
The Chief Justice, James Spigelman, last night told a dinner to mark the opening of the law year that judges could sit down with juries and correct any "fundamental defects".
He said the scheme did not involve juries actually imposing sentences, a system that still operates in some parts of the US.
"What I am proposing is an in-camera consultation process, protected by secrecy provisions, by which the trial judge discusses relevant issues with the jury after evidence and submissions on sentence and prior to determining sentence . . .
"It is quite likely that, if there has been some fundamental defect, the trial judge will discover it during the course of consulting with the jury about sentence. I do not think that that is a bad thing."
The radical scheme has not been adopted anywhere in the world, but Chief Justice Spigelman said "recent experience in this state [has shown] the jury decision-making process can go wrong" and that it was "worth a trial".

He did not specifically refer to any cases, but last year two rape verdicts were quashed because of juror indiscretions, and other verdicts have been criticised as too lenient.
His proposal also follows a call last year by the court's Justice John Dunford for majority verdicts on the basis that "a perverse, disinterested or simply incompetent juror" can get in the way of obvious decisions.
The Chief Justice's speech drew a sharp reaction from the head of the criminal law committee of the NSW Law Society, Pauline Wright, who said it could lead to "mob sentencing".
"I am so opposed to it. It would be a really big mistake," Ms Wright said.
However, the Attorney-General, Bob Debus, said "the ideas of the Chief Justice are always worth considering".
Chief Justice Spigelman said judges had to assess the prospects of re-offending, rehabilitation and the gravity of the conduct in sentencing.
"In these and other such respects I believe the sentencing process could be improved by a judge being able to draw on a broader range of experience," he told those gathered.
The Chief Justice said public confidence in the judiciary was diminishing because of "ignorance about what judges actually do". He said the media's focus on high-profile cases and controversy "actually impedes the course of justice".
"For deterrence to work, potential offenders must have an understanding of the likely consequences of criminal conduct. If, as I believe is the case, media reporting gives excessive emphasis to light sentences and gives the impression that such sentencing is typical, when it is not, then deterrence will not work. Let me put it in headline form: Media Bias Causes Crime Wave."
Ms Wright said jurors should be left to determine the facts and that complex issues that arose during sentencing should be left to a judge.
"Groups of people can be far more harsh. We would be heading into the mindset of the mob, and we do not want mob sentencing."

This was given to me this morning and i have been stewing over it all day long. Whilst i may be persauded to allow juries to liase with a judge on certain points of a matter i find this above to be a dead issue.
It is so true that the media here in Australia work the public up into a frenzy over certain sentences given, reporting the lieniancy of judges etc. It's bullshit. For most, a judge will provide the maximum sentence, now it is us the public and the government who are deciding the base sentencing...........tell them to pull their fingers out if you want tougher sentencing.
I know the public don't have a bloody clue on how sentencing works perhaps the media could work on reporting how judges arrive at the sentence they hand out. Its purely a ploy to create confidence in the judicary.....well if that's the case let the public educate themselves on how sentences are made.
To have juries involved, holy crap...........the potential nightmares this would bring.....fuck...i can't even begin............i still can't believe the Cheif Justice is even considering it.


Blogger Bookfraud said...

Interesting to see jurisprudence in other nations...here in the States, prosecutors and defendants always try to manipulate juries during the "penalty" phase, leading to uneven sentences -- different juries, different results, which really is insane for capital punishment cases.

Queensland is awesome, by the way -- Wife and I were in Cairns last year, and did some glorious sightseeing...I miss it so...sigh...

12:57 AM  
Blogger Jack the blogger said...

"The Chief Justice, James Spigelman, last night told a dinner", Hell Michelle if this guy is talking to his food he is crazier then I am. I was just telling my lunch the other day that your lack of confidence in the citizens of Austrailia is aweuninspireing. Maybe they will surprize you and be good at it. Then again maybe they will just let all the criminals go free. And after all the work you put in to get them convicted. What a shame, and what a sham. Sorry I'm a bit irrevlavant on the subject but after the screwing I took in court I don't give a rat's ass for judges. Fuck'um all. BTW what is the temp? It was 3F last night when I got out of work and it may be frezzing my brain cells.

5:54 AM  
Blogger Michelle said...

Bookfraud ~ Thanks for visiting my blog :)
Agree, no matter what you do there will always be sentencing discrepencies.
So glad you loved Cairns...its not too far from where i live and i love it too.

10:10 AM  
Blogger Michelle said...

Jack ~ LMAO @ talking to his food!
Yes i do lack confidence in many aussies on juries. Most of the public have no idea how sentencing is achieved, all they want is to put some prick behind bars forever or hang them. Why? Because there have been a few matters where crims have not served their full sentance and have been released early. I don't blame the public for getting mad, or pissed at the judges...i do myself. But they need to educate themselves on the system........if they want it changed then lobby the politicians and get it changed.
The media do nothing to help the situation either...focusing on the few matters that are screw ups instead of reporting on matters that are sucessful.

its 92dgs :)

10:21 AM  
Blogger Michelle said...

Ps..have allok at the jury who awarded the CA guy nearly 16million in "damages"...LMFAO...what a joke, all because his face looked similar to the one on the side of a coffee jar........unbeleiveable...he couldn't believe it either!!

10:23 AM  
Blogger English Professor said...

$16M? Who would I have to claim to look like to get that kind of money? Betty Crocker? Aunt Jemima? Tony the Tiger? $16M--that must have been one ugly coffee can.

11:13 AM  
Blogger Michelle said...

EP~ hehe @ Tony the Tiger! Its an insane amount of money, that's what you get when juries are allowed to have a say in sentencing :(

4:37 PM  

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