HB 284: Informing Juries to Ensure Justice
This bill failed to pass the House with a vote of 30-39.
Jurors have rights of which they are not made aware—and this is detrimental to the cause of justice. Specifically, jurors can determine a person not guilty of a crime they may have technically committed if the particular circumstances of the case create a manifest injustice.
We laid out this situation in detail, providing the history and importance of juries, in our public policy brief.
Representative Marc Roberts has sponsored House Bill 284 in order to codify these juror rights, enabling judges the option to inform jurors of their importance and power, all in an effort to ensure justice is served.
The bill would establish that a defendant in a criminal case can ask the judge to provide the jury with an instruction about the jury’s power to find a defendant not guilty when a guilty verdict would be manifestly unjust.
It’s important to realize that legislators cannot anticipate every consequence of their actions. Often times they are presented a situation that leads to a law being passed, but that law unintentionally applies to a different situation the legislators had not anticipated. This bill would therefore create a rarely-used escape valve of sorts, such that the application of any law which would be manifestly unjust in a particular circumstance could be dealt with under this provision, ensuring justice and allowing the defendant to avoid the unintended legal consequence.