The Top Five Things that Justice Stevens Said About Juries

By The Civil Jury Project Staff

“The New Jersey procedure challenged in this case is an unacceptable departure from the jury tradition that is an indispensable part of our criminal justice system.” Apprendi v. New Jersey, 530 U.S. 466, 497 (2000).

“We recognize . . . that in some cases jury factfinding may impair the most expedient and efficient sentencing of defendants. But the interest in fairness and reliability protected by the right to a jury trial—a common-law right that defendants enjoyed for centuries and that is now enshrined in the Sixth Amendment—has always outweighed the interest in concluding trials swiftly.” United States v. Booker, 543 U.S. 220, 244 (2005).

“A citizen should not be denied the opportunity to serve as a juror unless an impartial judge can state an acceptable reason for the denial. A challenge for cause provides such a reason; a peremptory challenge does not.” Foreword, 78 Chi.-Kent L. Rev. 907-08 (2003).

“Of special concern to me are rules that deprive the defendant of a trial by jurors representing a fair cross section of the community. Litigation involving both challenges for cause and peremptory challenges has persuaded me that the process of obtaining a ‘death qualified jury’ is really a procedure that has the purpose and effect of obtaining a jury that is biased in favor of conviction.” Baze v. Rees, 553 U.S. 35 (2008) (Stevens, J., concurring).

“Death sentences imposed by judges over contrary jury verdicts do more than countermand the community’s judgment: they express contempt for that judgment. Judicial overrides undermine the jury system’s central tenet that ‘sharing in the administration of justice is a phase of civic responsibility.'” Harris v. Alabama, 513 U.S. 504, 522 (1995) (Stevens, J., dissenting) (citation omitted).