Skip to main content Skip to office menu Skip to footer
Minnesota Legislature

Consent to waive a jury trial

Published (2/20/2009)
By Mike Cook
Share on: 



tate law permits a defendant to waive a jury trial with court approval. However, some prosecutors would like to have a say in the matter.

Sponsored by Rep. John Lesch (DFL-St. Paul), HF582 would do just that. Heard Feb. 12 by the House Public Safety Policy and Oversight Committee, it was held over for possible omnibus bill inclusion.

Supporters say the bill would prevent the few cases each year where a judge seems to indicate they favor the defendant’s position.

Lesch related the issue to the legislative process. If a sponsor knew a bill would be rejected by a committee, but that the chair supports the bill, the member would seek to bypass the committee and just have the chair push it through.

During pre-trial motions, Lesch said a judge can give a sense on their thoughts about the case by deciding what evidence will be allowed or motions could be granted. “When you have those answers, it allows you to deal with the case more effectively, and maybe you want to settle if the judge is going to exclude certain evidence I have.”

“There’s plenty of judge-shopping going on,” said Winona County Attorney Chuck MacLean. “Then all the defendant has to do is flip the switch, waive a jury trial. … The state should have a chance to weigh in.”

Not all attorneys see the need for change.

William Ward, chief public defender for the eight-county 10th Judicial District, said in some areas of the state race can be a factor in a jury trial, and many minorities believe a judge can look beyond skin color. “It’s about whether the client believes in the fairness of the process for which they’re faced.”

I still like the idea that if I’m a defendant, I have a choice, said Rep. Tony Cornish (R-Good Thunder), calling it “too big a risk to take with our system” for something that happens a few times.

A companion, SF210, sponsored by Sen. Linda Scheid (DFL-Brooklyn Park), awaits action by the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Session Weekly More...


Session Weekly Home



Related Stories


Turn your key and breathe
House approves ignition interlock bill that would let DWI offenders drive sooner
(view full story) Published 4/29/2010

Minnesota Index: Crime and punishment
Figures and statistics on crime in Minnesota.
(view full story) Published 3/18/2010

Red River Basin: ‘Here we go again’
Flood-prone communities look to keep their heads above water
(view full story) Published 3/4/2010

At Issue: Courts and corrections backing
Public safety finance bill awaits gubernatorial action
(view full story) Published 5/15/2009

At Issue: Corrections, courts funding concerns
Omnibus public safety finance bill gets mixed reaction from House
(view full story) Published 5/1/2009

At Issue: Sex offenders, courts and corrections
Omnibus public safety policy bill headed to conference committee
(view full story) Published 4/24/2009

At Issue: Helping to find missing adults
House vote expected soon on ‘Brandon’s Law’
(view full story) Published 4/17/2009

Minnesota Index: Keeping Minnesotans safe
Figures and statistics on the state patrol and fire marshals in Minnesota
(view full story) Published 3/20/2009

Minnesota Index: See you in court
Figures and statistics on Minnesota's court system
(view full story) Published 2/27/2009

Minnesota Index: 'The Graybar Hotel'
Figures and statistics on Minnesota's prison population
(view full story) Published 1/16/2009