The Trial: A Murder in the Family – The Jury

26 May 2017

As The Trial approaches its denouement we spent the penultimate episode focused on the closing speeches and the beginning of the jury’s deliberation.

Our concern of the defendant giving evidence was brought into sharp focus at the close of the defendant’s cross-examination when a juror commented, “why did they put him on the stand, he was not guilty as far as I was concerned”.

The contrasting styles of advocacy and the impact on the jury were instructive during the closing speeches.

While a juror accused Mr Hill QC of lacking charisma in comparison to the mellifluous Mr Ryder QC, the comment failed to recognise that the jury had hung on Mr Hill’s every word.

Charisma comes in various forms; Mr Hill QC’s measured cadence demanded constant engagement while he took the jury through the strands of the prosecution case and invited them to agree that the only proper conclusion which could be drawn was that of Mr Davies’ guilt.

In contrast, in an oratorical flurry, Mr Ryder QC took the jury through the defence case, highlighting the factual deficiencies and inviting the jury to reject the portrayal of Mr Davies as a violent, cerebral individual with cause to murder. Mr Ryder invited the jury to conclude that they could not dismiss the possibility of Carla’s murder coming at the hands of Mr Skinner – a conclusion which would require them to acquit.

As the jury began their deliberation it is helpful to revisit the decision that they must make. In directing the jury as to their role the judge is likely to rely on the guidance found in the Crown Court Compendium:

  • The jury must not speculate; they must decide the case on the evidence alone.
  • The jury alone are responsible for weighing up the evidence, deciding what has or has not been proved, and returning a verdict/verdicts based on their view of the facts and what the judge has told them about the law.
  • Where there are different accounts in the evidence about a particular matter the jury must weigh up the reliability of the witnesses who have given evidence about the matter, taking into account how far in the jury's view their evidence is honest and accurate. It is entirely for the jury to decide what evidence they accept as reliable and what they reject as unreliable.
  • The jury are permitted to draw sensible conclusions from the evidence they accept as reliable, but they must not engage in speculation or guess-work about matters which have not been covered by the evidence.
  • The jury must not allow themselves to be influenced by any emotional reaction to the case and/or any sympathy for anyone involved in the case and/or by any fixed ideas/preconceptions/prejudices they may have had.

To convict, the jury must be sure that the defendant is guilty – they must have no realistic doubt of Mr Davies’ guilt.

Over the past few days we have seen jurors reactively discussing isolated pieces of evidence in small groups – something they would have been warned against from the very first day. We also saw the jury introduce personal experience, and bias, into the deliberations. Reassuringly this brief diversion from their role demonstrated the great strength of a jury; any bias – unintentional or otherwise – is checked and balanced against the views of the group.

From what has been shown to the audience it is difficult to sure of Mr Davies guilt but the jury may well form a different view.

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