An Iowa Supreme Court decision has raised questions about the way the state’s judges will handle inconsistent jury verdicts. The high court ruled last week that a jury was inconsistent in 2008 when they convicted David Halstead of Sioux City of assault while committing a felony, but acquitted him of the underlying felony theft charge.
Kevin Cmelik with the Attorney General’s office says these kinds of verdicts are not uncommon and Iowa and most other states have allowed them to stand.
“Juries will sometimes do things for irrational reasons and that’s why the inconsistent verdict rule developed,” Cmelik says, “The court just didn’t want to look into the mind of the jurors and try to decide why jurors were doing what they were doing when it sometimes reflected not an exercise in judgment, but an exercise in leniency.”
Cmelik says the ruling raises new questions for Judges. “What does the court do when it receives an inconsistent verdict? Does it tell the jury to go back and deliberate again, does it simply grant judgment of acquittal on the remaining offense? I don’t that the decision necessarily answers that question but it’s certainly going to affect cases in the future,” Cmelik says.
Cmelik says it is not clear yet whether this ruling will be applied retroactively. He says that question will undoubtedly be raised during someone else’s appeal.