No one ever said that law has anything to do with justice. And such was the case recently when a New Jersey federal jury acquitted 20 people accused of being mobsters for the Lucchese crime family - a trial that lasted 22 months.
They were not acquitted because the jurors thought them innocent of the crimes. They were acquitted because the jurors didn't understand the judge's instructions."Each of your verdicts must be unanimous," the judge told jurors. "It must be 12-0 whether you find each individual guilty or not guilty on each count. I can accept nothing less than a unanimous verdict."
The jury forewoman told reporters, however, that they had read that instruction to mean that if jurors disagreed on the guilt or innocence of defendants on a particular charge, they had no choice but to immediately return an innocent verdict rather than to continue to deliberate.
"In some cases, there wasn't enough evidence to convict," she said. "But in others there was."
"We misread the whole thing," said another juror. "We are laymen. How are we supposed to understand all of that?"
Members of the jury criticized the judge for not explaining the instructions, they criticized the prosecutor for not polling the jury and they even criticized some members of the jury who didn't do their job right, saying "lets just get it over with."
In the end, though, it's justice that suffers. Individuals walk the street who should be behind bars and the prosecutors are left wondering who ever named their agency the Justice Department.