Overcoming the Opposition to a Third Verdict: A Call for Future Research on Alternative Acquittals

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50 Ariz. St. L.J. 401 (2018). Hannah Phalen.

In 1807, former Vice President Aaron Burr faced charges of treason. After a month-long trial, the jury deliberated for less than an hour. When they returned, however, they were not content with delivering one of the two traditional verdicts. Instead, the jury foreman declared, “[w]e of the jury say that Aaron Burr is not proved to be guilty under the indictment . . . submitted to us.” Defense attorneys protested the wording of the verdict but Chief Justice Marshall let it stand, recording the verdict as “not guilty.”

Nearly 200 years later, President Bill Clinton faced impeachment in the United States Senate. Rather than voting guilty or not guilty, Republican Senator Arlen Specter announced that the charges against the President were “not proven.” Specter was upset that the Senate refused to allow live testimony and explained his vote by stating, “I do not believe the president is ‘not guilty’. . . . I believe that there has been . . . a sham trial, and it’s a trial on which you can’t really come to a verdict.

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