The US jury system has evolved over time and continues to evolve. What started out as an all-white male only institution is now as diverse as the US population. One of the issues confronting the jury system is jury nullification, where a jury finds a defendant guilty or innocent contrary to the clear evidence for a variety of reasons. In the past, the jury system had a history of jury nullification in which all-white juries convicted blacks of crimes they not only were innocent of committing, but which the jury members knew they were innocent of committing. Similarly, the case of O.J. Simpson in the mid 1990s in which an all black jury acquitted a famous black athlete against what many believed was clear evidence of the defendant’s guilt.
At issue is jury fairness: How can there really be any pretension toward finding twelve jurors not already predisposed toward a verdict in this age of immediate media coverage; and should trials of infamous and well-covered crimes necessarily be tried in the jurisdiction in which the crimes took place.
Another issue at the forefront of the jury system in America is the idea of jury unanimity. Many high-profile trials that ended in hung juries were discovered to have been nearly unanimous with only one or two holdouts. Subsequently there have been some efforts made to follow England’s move toward allowing non-unanimous verdicts. At present this concept has had no real legislative pressure behind it and typically only becomes an issue when it has been discovered that a defendant generally found guilty in the public’s eye receives the benefit of a hung jury.