A Different Storyline for 12 Angry Men: Verdicts Reached by Majority Rule - The Spanish Perspective
17 Pages Posted: 12 Sep 2011
Date Written: November 16, 2007
The film 12 Angry Men deals with one of the main aspects of trial by jury, namely, the process of deliberation. Not only does it consider the difficulties involved in reaching a unanimous verdict under U.S. legislation, but it also points out other weaknesses of the judicial system, particularly, in my view, jury prejudice towards the defendant and the indifference of those called to perform jury service. Spain has adopted the classic system of trial by jury, as opposed to the European model consisting of a mixed court with lay assessors. Constitutional provisions on the subject of lay participation, under Article 125, were given expression almost twenty years after the approval of the current Constitution, in the form of the Ley Orgánica del Tribunal del Jurado 5/1995 (“LOTJ”), the Spanish jury law. Nevertheless, the jury system in Spain is to some extent unique and particularly so in the verdict phase: in the first place, under Spanish legislation, the verdict is decided by the majority rule; second, and perhaps more unusually, the verdict must be “reasoned” in a similar way to the judicial decision itself, albeit expressed in the language of the layperson. Had 12 Angry Men been set in the context of a Spanish courtroom, these two requirements would have radically changed the plot of the film.
These two specific aspects of jury proceedings leading up to the verdict constitute the most significant difference of the jury system in Spain, when compared to the concept of trial by jury that evolved in the U.K. and that was subsequently practiced in the U.S. Whereas the traditional Anglo-Saxon jury system applies the unanimity rule to a jury of twelve - above all in the U.S.,8 as the majority rule was introduced in the U.K. some years ago - Spanish legislation merely requires the agreement of a majority of the nine jurors to reach a non-guilty verdict and seven votes for a guilty verdict. The most controversial question remains the legal requirements for the reasoning behind the verdict itself. Not only is this disputed by scholars but, more importantly, it is a thorny problem in judicial practice and has stirred up numerous jurisprudential conflicts in the Spanish superior appeal courts that have overturned verdicts and even entire sentences.
Keywords: jury proceedings, jury system in Spain, deliberation, verdict
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