According to a report from the Wall Street Journal this week, cases brought before judges are more likely to end in a “not guilty” verdict than those heard by juries. The decision to opt for a jury trial is one made by the defendant in a case and is not made hastily. The factors that go into a decision like this, no doubt have an effect on whether or not an acquittal is reached.
Judges handed down convictions in 61% of their felony cases while juries did the same in 67% of cases between 2006 and 2010. While the difference doesn’t seem dramatic, it is notable, especially if you are the defendant.
As this report points out, there are many reasons a defendant may opt for a judge rather than a jury. While your right to trial by jury is granted in the constitution, the decision is ultimately yours.
A judge may be a better move if there are many technical legal nuances in your case. A jury, after all, could potentially get lost in all of the specifics. Judges, as educated and trained legal professionals, are more equipped to deal with the complicated cases.
Also, juries may be more swayed by emotion. So, particularly gruesome cases are sometimes benefitted by a judge, again trained to not be caught up in the emotions and instead stick to the legal facts of the case.
There are many different things to consider when you and your defense lawyer discuss whether or not a jury trial is appropriate. After all “you only need one to hang a jury” as New York University professor of law Rachel Barkow says. A single dissenting juror in a panel of 12 could be the demise of your case.
So, while the cases looked at between 2006 and 2010 may have had more success in front of judges, that doesn’t necessarily mean that judges are more lenient and that all cases stand a better chance in front of a bench. It does, however, show that the sort of cases heard by a jury and those determined in a bench trial vary widely.
If you are facing criminal charges in a New York Court, the decision to have a jury or bench trial is just one of many that you will need to make with the help of your criminal defense attorney. Having a local attorney who knows the local courtroom players can be critical. Contact our attorneys today if you are charged with a criminal offense and need an advocate on your side.