Tuesday, October 28, 2003

Number of jury trials in criminal cases in Virginia keeps going down

As reported in this story in the Norfolk paper, the number of jury trials in criminal cases in Virginia's state courts continues to decline, mostly because of the bifurcated trials that allow use of the defendant's criminal record in the sentencing phase -

"Prosecutors and defense attorneys say the decline has been caused by the state's trial system, in which juries learn a defendant's criminal history before imposing a sentence. Juries tend to sentence people more harshly than judges, prosecutors and defense lawyers say, and fewer defendants are willing to risk handing their fate to 12 strangers.

In 1991, 3.9 percent of criminal cases in Virginia ended with jury trials, according to statistics compiled by the state Supreme Court. Virginia began giving all juries information about criminal records in 1994. By 2002, criminal jury trials had fallen to 1.5 percent of concluded cases."

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