Tn. Judges Oppose Empowering Juries In Sentencing


A Tennessee governor’s task force is may suggest giving juries the power to decide whether there were aggravating factors that would allow the judge in a criminal case to tack on extra time to a sentence, reports the Tennessean in Nashville. Judges across the state Tennessee have serious concerns about the idea to answer a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision. A survey found that 84 percent of the state’s judges who hold criminal trials are opposed to the idea, said Davidson County Criminal Court Judge Steve Dozier. He said the plan would not be fair to jurors, who would have to spend more time on jury duty. He also said that victims might have to testify more than they do now, and the procedure would back up the courts and be costly to taxpayers. One task force member agreed. “Judge Dozier’s observation is absolutely correct,” said Nashville attorney David Raybin. “But that is a function of what the Supreme Court said we had to do. Nobody likes it. I don’t like it. That is a consequence of the Supreme Court ruling.”

The plan would involve shifting Tennessee’s criminal courts to a “bifurcated” jury system – one where juries would deliberate in two phases during their service. Jurors would spend one phase deliberating the defendant’s guilt and another after the trial, deciding whether there were “aggravating” circumstances surrounding the crime. The plan would also allow judges to find “mitigating” factors. If the person played only a minor role in the crime, the judge might cut a sentence without the jury’s approval.


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