Some of you may have been following the case of Cecily McMillan. She was one of the Occupy Wall Street protestors who was arrested and she was accused of injuring a police officer in a scuffle although she alleged that she had acted reflexively when he grabbed her breast.
She went on trial and from the beginning the judge had been very hostile to her and her defense team, repeatedly denying them opportunities to provide video evidence of her innocence..
In the end the jury found her guilty of the felony of second-degree assault. But after delivering their verdict, the jurors were shocked to discover that the charge carried with it the possibility of seven years in prison and nine of the twelve took the extraordinary step of writing to the judge saying that they felt that she should not go to jail.
In the end she was sentenced to three months in jail and five years probation with community service. Chris Hedges has an extensive account of her story and her case and how peaceful protest is being criminalized as the fears of unrest spread.
One thing that bothers me about this case is the fact that the jurors were not told what the sentencing possibilities were when they were deciding on her guilt. I can understand why in a legal sense. The issue of guilt and innocence would seem to be decidable on the merits of the evidence alone and information about sentencing should, in principle, be immaterial to arriving at a verdict of guilty or not guilty. Judges are the ones who usually determine the punishment.
But in reality, it is not irrelevant. People in general, and jurors in particular, see justice in broad terms in which guilt and punishment are wrapped together, and not in a narrow legalistic sense. The jurors seemed to feel that her offense deserved some punishment but just probation or a fine or something similar, but well short of imprisonment. If they had known what they were letting her in for, they might have reduced the charge to something much lesser or even acquitted her if they felt the sentence would be worse than her offense.
I think that jurors should be told of the range of punishments that accompany any guilty verdict so that they can make the most suitable judgment.