KENTUCKY SUPREME COURT: UNANIMOUS VERDICT REALLY MEANS ALL 12
The Kentucky Supreme Court’s criminal law theme for this spring is apparently the meaning of unanimous verdict. Most people think they know what “unanimous” means, but ah: let some lawyers get involved! More seriously, the issue is really one of how a jury is instructed on the elements of a crime. Basically, if you see the word “or” in a jury instruction too many times, you may well be looking at a non-unanimous verdict. Kind of like this: “Americans were unanimous that EITHER Mitt Romney OR Barack Obama should be president.” Obviously, the word “unanimous” has almost no meaning when used like this. In the case of Commonwealth v. Deonte Simmons, the Kentucky Supreme Court reviewed a criminal trial which proceeded to verdict (and—you guessed it—a guilty verdict) with 11 jurors. “But,” said the Commonwealth, “his lawyer agreed to this.” That’s way too important a right, says the Court in reversing—we need to know that the Defendant personally waived that right.