Can Better Juries Fix American Criminal Justice?
This piece is a response to Daniel Epps & William Ortman, The Informed Jury, 75 VAND. L. REV. 823 (2022).
Professors Daniel Epps and William Ortman argue that it could. In their Article The Informed Jury, Epps and Ortman propose that trial judges inform juries about the authorized sentences attached to the charged offenses presented to them before they decide whether defendants are guilty of those charges. The idea flies in the face of more than a century of practice in state and federal courts; law in almost every U.S. jurisdiction prohibits jurors from being told the possible sentencing consequences of conviction (capital murder charges excepted).Why, after all, do jurors need to know? Save in a half-dozen states (and again in capital cases), jurors have no role in sentencing.Whether a defendant is guilty of a crime is one question; what punishment he should receive if guilty is another. Jurors are assigned the first; judges (or sometimes statutes) settle the second.
Darryl K. Brown