When you are facing criminal charges in New Jersey, you have several important decisions to make. One of these decisions is whether to request a jury trial. In criminal cases, you have the constitutional right to be tried by a jury of your peers, and your New Jersey criminal defense attorney can help you decide whether you should exercise this right or waive it and proceed with a bench trial. In a bench trial, there is no jury, and the judge hears the facts and renders a verdict.
There can be several benefits to requesting a jury trial in a New Jersey criminal case. But, this assumes that the members of the jury will be fair and impartial. Unfortunately, this is not guaranteed. Criminal defendants must rely on their defense attorneys to carefully select the jurors who will hear their case and create a jury that is prepared to listen to the facts and render a just verdict.
7 Benefits of a Fair and Impartial Jury in a New Jersey Criminal Case
Why should you consider exercising your constitutional right to a jury trial in your New Jersey criminal case? Here are seven benefits of empaneling a fair and impartial jury:
1. The Jury Must Reach a Unanimous Decision to Convict
In a jury trial, the jurors must reach a unanimous decision in order to convict. If even a single juror is not convinced that you are guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, then you are entitled to a “Not guilty” verdict.
2. The Jurors Will Be Able to Put Themselves in Your Shoes
Many jurors could just as easily see themselves sitting at the defense table as in the jury box. Those who can’t may have a friend or family member who has been treated unfairly by the criminal justice system, or they may be able to put themselves in your shoes and imagine the immense weight of a life-altering conviction. When jurors understand what you have at stake, they are far more likely to take their duty seriously and render a fair decision.
3. The Jurors Will Consider All of the Admissible Evidence
Fair and impartial jurors will consider all of the admissible evidence and render a decision based on the facts that have been proven during trial. They will carefully evaluate the evidence presented by both sides, and they will not afford undue weight to the prosecution’s evidence simply because it comes from the government.
4. The Jurors Will Ignore Any Evidence the Judge Instructs Them to Ignore
Sometimes, the judge will instruct the jury to ignore evidence that has been introduced improperly. This could happen, for example, if the prosecution attempts to introduce evidence that it did not disclose to the defense prior to trial. While it can be difficult for jurors to “unhear” something they’ve heard in open court, fair and impartial jurors will be able to set inadmissible evidence aside and focus solely on the evidence that is relevant to your case.
5. You Can Ask the Judge to Acquit Before Your Case Goes to the Jury
When you request a jury trial, you also have the right to ask the judge for an acquittal before your case goes to the jury. The judge can—and must—acquit if the prosecution’s evidence is insufficient to warrant a conviction as a matter of law. In this way, a jury trial gives you two opportunities to avoid a conviction. You can ask the judge to render a decision based on the facts presented, and if the judge determines that your case should go to the jury, then you can rely on a fair and impartial jury to do its job and render a decision based on the evidence and arguments your New Jersey criminal defense attorney has presented in your favor.
6. The Jurors Can Seek Clarification When They Have Questions
During their deliberations, jurors can seek clarification from the judge when they have questions. While jurors who simply want to go home may not put in the effort to do so, fair and impartial jurors will put in the time and effort necessary to make sure they do not render an unjust verdict.
7. The Jurors Will Follow the Judge’s Instructions and Render a Verdict Based on the Prosecution’s Burden of Proof
Before your case goes to the jury, the judge will provide instructions explaining the elements of each offense that the prosecution has the burden to prove. If the prosecution’s evidence of any single element is lacking, then the jury will follow the judge’s instructions and render a “Not guilty” verdict based on the fact that the prosecution hasn’t met its burden of proof.
How Do You Make Sure You Get a Fair and Impartial Jury in New Jersey?
Given the importance of a fair and impartial jury, how do you make sure the members of your jury are fair and impartial?
Before your criminal trial in New Jersey, your defense attorney and the prosecutor’s office will have the opportunity to play a role in the jury selection process. This process is known as voir dire. During voir dire, your defense attorney will be able to ask questions, strike jurors who appear to be biased, and work to ensure that all members of the jury are prepared to render a decision based solely on the admissible evidence presented in court.
When Wouldn’t You Want a Jury Trial in New Jersey?
Is there ever a scenario in which you wouldn’t want a jury trial in New Jersey? While there are many benefits to having your case heard by a fair and impartial jury, a bench trial can be the better option in certain scenarios. When you hire an experienced New Jersey criminal defense attorney to represent you, your attorney will help you carefully weigh your options and choose the best path forward.
Discuss Your Case with a New Jersey Criminal Defense Attorney
We represent defendants in all types of criminal cases throughout New Jersey. If you are facing charges, we encourage you to contact us promptly for more information. Call 877-435-6371 or contact us online to schedule an appointment with an experienced New Jersey criminal defense attorney.