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The Loneliness of the Hold Out Juror

What happens when just one of twelve refuses to vote for guilty? That juror becomes the Hold Out Juror. It takes twelve guilty votes to convict. A jury has twelve members. All twelve have to agree and vote for guilt before a guilty verdict can be returned.

The Hold Out Juror is the one who won’t go along with the other eleven jurors voting to convict. All kinds of pressure is applied. Shouting at the juror often occurs. Finger pointing in an angry manner is directed at the Hold Out Juror. When this abusive conduct doesn’t succeed in swaying the Hold Out Juror irrefutable logic is attempted. The other jurors usually appoint one of their brethren to explain how it just couldn’t have happened the way the Hold Out Juror sees the evidence. Of course, he will say, logic dictates that the Defendant’s story is full of holes. How could you believe his testimony when it flies in the face of what makes sense to all eleven of us? What is it about you that you don’t get it?

When logic fails to bring the Hold Out Juror into the unanimous fold, it becomes a case of, if we don’t reach a verdict then all of our time, the taxpayers’ money, and all of our effort has been wasted. You, the Hold Out Juror don’t want that do you?

Powerful forces are applied to the Hold Out Juror. It’s not often that mistrials are declared when it’s only one juror facing down the other eleven. Yet, if the Hold Out Juror stays true to his own beliefs and true to his oath to vote an individual verdict based only on the evidence as he sees it, justice is served even by a mistrial. For the Defendant, the Hold Out Juror is truly a hero who sometimes is the only one between him and an unjust verdict.

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