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A jury is a sworn body of people convened to render a rational, impartial verdict (a finding of fact on a question) officially submitted to them by a court, or to set a penalty or judgment. A trial in which a jury decides the verdict is known as a jury trial. A person who is serving on a jury is known as juror.

The word jury originates Latin, from juris (law). Juries are most common in common law adversarial-system jurisdictions. Juries act as triers of fact, while judges act as triers of law. A trial without a jury (in which both questions of fact and questions of law are decided by a judge) is known as a bench trial.

The petit jury (or trial jury) hears the evidence in a trial as presented by both the plaintiff (petitioner) and the defendant (respondent). After hearing the evidence and often jury instructions from the judge, the group retires for deliberation, to consider a verdict. The majority required for a verdict varies. In some cases it must be unanimous, while in other jurisdictions it may be a majority or supermajority. A jury that is unable to come to a verdict is referred to as a hung jury. The size of the jury varies; in criminal cases there are usually 12 jurors, although Scotland uses 15. In civil cases many trials require only six.

A grand jury, a type of jury now confined almost exclusively to some jurisdictions in the United States, determines whether there is enough evidence for a criminal trial to go forward. Grand juries carry out this duty by examining evidence presented to them by a prosecutor and issuing indictments, or by investigating alleged crimes and issuing presentments. A grand jury is traditionally larger than and distinguishable from the petit jury used during a trial, with at least 12 jurors.

Serving on a jury is normally compulsory for those individuals who are qualified for jury service. Since a jury is intended to be an impartial panel capable of reaching a verdict, there are often procedures and requirements, for instance, fluent understanding of the language, or the ability to test jurors or otherwise exclude jurors who might be perceived as less than neutral or more partial to hear one side or the other. Juries are initially chosen randomly from the eligible population residing in the court's jurisdictional area (unless a change of venue has occurred). Jury selection varies widely; in the United States, some form of organized questioning of the prospective jurors (jury pool) occurs—voir dire—before the jury is selected (impaneled)

A head juror is called the foreman or presiding juror. The foreman is often chosen before the trial begins. The role of the foreman is to ask questions on behalf of the jury, facilitate jury discussions, and sometimes to read the verdict of the jury. Since there is always the possibility of jurors not completing the trial for health or other reasons, often one or more alternate jurors are nominated. Alternates hear the trial but do not take part in deciding the verdict unless a juror is unable to deliberate.

HistoryEdit

Islamic lawEdit

A precursor to the jury trial was the Lafif in the Maliki school of classical Islamic law and jurisprudence, which was developed between the 8th and 11th centuries in the medieval Islamic world, specifically in North Africa, Islamic Spain and Emirate of Sicily, and shares a number of similarities with the later jury trials in English common law. Like the English jury, the Islamic Lafif was a body of twelve members drawn from the neighborhood and sworn to tell the truth, who were bound to give a unanimous verdict, about matters "which they had personally seen or heard, binding on the judge, to settle the truth concerning facts in a case, between ordinary people, and obtained as of right by the plaintiff." A characteristic of the English jury which the Islamic Lafif lacked was the "judicial writ directing the jury to be summoned and directing the bailiff to hear its recognition." According to John Makdisi, "no other institution in any legal institution studied to date shares all of these characteristics with the English jury." It is possible that the concept of the Lafif may have been introduced to England after the Norman conquest of England by the Normans, who conquered and inherited the Islamic legal administration of the Emirate of Sicily (see Arab-Norman culture), and "through the close connection between the Norman kingdoms of Roger II in Sicily — ruling over a conquered Islamic administration — and Henry II in England."[1][2]

According John A. Makdisi, many concepts of English common law, including juries, derive from Islamic law. In the same period as William the Conquerer conquered England, Norman adventurers led by Robert Guiscard had taken Sicily, previously under the Arab Fatimid Caliphate. Thus, according to Makdisi, English law became influenced by the Islamic law used in Sicily under the Fatimids, including the use of the twelve man jury. Makdisi points to Henry II's laws as having been influenced through people such as Thomas Brown, a member of Henry's government who had previously served in the Sicilian government.[3]

Common lawEdit

File:The Jury by John Morgan.jpg

The modern jury trial as it is now understood was later developed in England during the Assize of Clarendon in 1166, a document issued by Henry II of England in 1166. This established juries of the hundreds and boroughs. These juries of presentment were required to declare on oath before visiting justices and sheriffs, who were accused or suspected of serious felonies. The function of a presentment jury was to bring cases, which had before only been possible by private appeal. Henry 's assize may well have only formalized a system in operation and first referred to in a decree issued by Aethelred at Wantage, which enacted that in every wapentake "the twelve leading thegns together with the reeve shall go out and swear on the relics which are given into their hands, that they will not accuse any innocent man nor shield a guilty one."[4].

The concept can also be traced to Normandy before 1066, when a jury of nobles was established to decide land disputes. In this manner, the Duke, being the largest land owner, could not act as a judge in his own case. Many ancient cultures had similar concepts, notably ancient Judea whose panel of judges called the Sanhedrin served a similar purpose.

In modern systems, law is "self-contained" and "distinct from other coercive forces, and perceived as separate from the political life of the community," but "all these barriers are absent in the context of classical Athens. In practice and in conception the law and its administration are in some important respects indistinguishable from the life of the community in general."[5]

Trial jury sizeEdit

File:Jury duty.jpg

The size of the jury is to provide a "cross-section" of the public. In Williams v. Florida, 399 U.S. 78 (1970), the Supreme Court of the United States ruled that a Florida state jury of six was sufficient, and that "the 12-man panel is not a necessary ingredient of "trial by jury," and that respondent's refusal to impanel more than the six members provided for by Florida law did not violate petitioner's Sixth Amendment rights as applied to the States through the Fourteenth."

In Brownlee v The Queen (2001) 207 CLR 278, the High Court of Australia unanimously held that a jury of 12 members was not an essential feature of "trial by jury" in section 80 of the Australian Constitution.

In Scotland, a jury in a criminal trial consists of 15 jurors though a review by the Scottish Government may lead to a reduction in this figure.[6]

Secrecy and independenceEdit

For juries to fulfill their role to analyze the facts of the case, there are strict rules about their use of information during the trial. Juries are often instructed to avoid learning about the case from any source other than the trial (such as from media accounts) and to not attempt to conduct their own investigations (such as independently visiting a crime scene). Parties, lawyers, and witnesses are not allowed to speak with a member of the jury. Doing these things may constitute reversible error. In very rare, high-profile cases, juries may be sequestered for the deliberation phase or for the entire trial.

Conversely, jurors are generally required to keep their deliberations in strict confidence during the trial and deliberations, and in some jurisdictions even after a verdict is rendered. In English law, the jury's deliberations must never be disclosed outside the jury, even years after the case; to repeat parts of the trial or verdict, is considered to be contempt of court, a criminal offence. In the United States, this rule usually does not apply, and sometimes jurors have made remarks that called into question whether a verdict was properly arrived at. In Australia, academics are permitted to scrutinize the jury process only after obtaining a certificate or approval from the Attorney-General.

Because of the desire to prevent undue influence on a jury, jury tampering (like witness tampering) is a serious crime, whether attempted through bribery, threat of violence, or other means. Jurors themselves can also be held liable if they deliberately compromise their impartiality.

RoleEdit

The role of the jury is often described as a finder of fact, while the judge is seen as having the sole responsibility of interpreting the appropriate law and instructing the jury accordingly. The jury will render a verdict on the defendant's guilt, or civil liability.

Occasionally, if jurors find the law to be invalid or unfair, they may acquit the defendant, regardless of the evidence that the defendant violated the law. This is commonly referred to as jury nullification. When there is no jury ("bench trial"), the judge makes rulings on both questions of law and of fact. In most continental European jurisdictions, the judges have more power in a trial and the role and powers of a jury are often restricted. Actual jury law and trial procedures differ between countries.

In the United States, juries are also entitled to make factual findings on particular aggravating circumstances which will be used to elevate the defendant's sentence, if the defendant is convicted. This practice was required in all death penalty cases in Blakely v. Washington, where the Supreme Court ruled that allowing judges to make such findings unilaterally violates the Sixth Amendment right to a jury trial. A similar Sixth-Amendment argument in Apprendi v. New Jersey expanded the requirement to all cases, holding that "any fact that increases the penalty for a crime beyond the prescribed statutory maximum must be submitted to a jury and proved beyond a reasonable doubt".

In Canada, juries are also allowed to make suggestions for sentencing periods and at the time of sentencing, the suggestions of the jury are presented before the judge by the Crown prosecutor(s) before the sentence is handed down.

However, this is not the practice in most other legal systems based on the English tradition, in which judges retain sole responsibility for deciding sentences according to law. The exception is the award of damages in English law libel cases, although a judge is now obliged to make a recommendation to the jury as to the appropriate amount.

Jury nullificationEdit

Jury nullification means making a law void by jury decision, in other words "the process whereby a jury in a criminal case effectively nullifies a law by acquitting a defendant regardless of the weight of evidence against him or her."[1]

In the 17th and 18th centuries there were a series of cases starting in 1670 with the trial of the Quaker William Penn which asserted the (de facto) right of a jury to pass a verdict contrary to the facts or law. A good example is the case of one Carnegie of Finhaven who in 1728 accidentally killed the Scottish Earl of Strathmore. As the defendant had undoubtedly killed the Earl, the law (as it stood) required the jury to pass the verdict that the case had been "proven" and cause Carnegie of Finhaven to die for an accidental killing. Instead the jury asserted what it believed to be their "ancient right" to judge the whole case and not just the facts and brought in the verdict of "not guilty". This led to the development of the not proven verdict in Scots law.

Today in the United States, juries are instructed by the judge to follow his instructions concerning what is the "law", in his opinion, and to render a verdict solely on the evidence presented in court. If it reaches a conclusion contrary to those instructions, but based on its own beliefs as to what the law is, whether it has been properly applied, or whether it should be the law, this is known as jury nullification. It finds its most common expression when verdicts are rendered based on passion, prejudice, sympathy or bias. It has been asserted that the jury has the power to "nullify" a law it believes is unjust, by, for example, refusing to find the defendant guilty, in spite of the evidence, if it believes that a guilty verdict would be unjust. Important past exercises of this de facto power include cases involving slavery (see Fugitive Slave Act of 1850), freedom of the press (see John Peter Zenger), and freedom of religion (see William Penn).

In 1969 the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeal unanimously ruled: "If the jury feels that the law under which the defendant is accused is unjust, or exigent circumstances justified the actions of the accused, or for any reason which appeals to their logic or passion, the jury has the right to acquit, and the courts must abide that decision." The Fully Informed Jury Association is a non-profit educational organization dedicated to informing jurors of their rights and seeks laws to force judges to inform jurors that they can and should judge the law. In a still standing decision (Sparf v. United States, 1895) the Supreme Court, in a 5-4 decision, held that a trial judge has no responsibility to inform the jury of the right to nullify laws.

Modern American jurisprudence is generally intolerant of the practice, and a juror can be removed from a case if the judge believes that the juror is aware of the power of nullification[7].

Jury equityEdit

In the United Kingdom, a similar power exists, often called "jury equity". This enables a jury to reach a decision in direct contradiction with the law if they feel the law is unjust. This can create a persuasive precedent for future cases, or render prosecutors reluctant to bring a charge – thus a jury has the power to influence the law.

Perhaps the best example of modern-day jury equity in England and Wales was the acquittal of Clive Ponting, on a charge of revealing secret information, under s.2 of the Official Secrets Act, 1911 in 1985. Mr Ponting's defense was that the revelation was in the public interest. The trial judge directed the jury that "the public interest is what the government of the day says it is" – effectively a direction to the jury to convict. Nevertheless, the jury returned a verdict of not guilty.

Another example is the acquittal in 1989 of Michael Randle and Pat Pottle, who confessed in open court to charges of springing the Soviet spy George Blake from Wormwood Scrubs Prison and smuggling him to East Germany in 1966. Pottle successfully appealed to the jury to disregard the judge's instruction that they consider only whether the defendants were guilty in law, and assert a jury's ancient right to throw out a politically-motivated prosecution, in this case compounded by its cynical untimeliness.[8]

In Scotland (with a separate legal system from that of England and Wales) although technically the "not guilty" verdict was originally a form of jury nullification, over time the interpretation has changed so that now the "not guilty" verdict has become the normal one when a jury is not persuaded of guilt and the "not proven" verdict is only used when the jury is not certain of innocence or guilt. It is absolutely central to Scottish and English law that there is a presumption of innocence. It is not a trivial distinction since any shift in the burden of proof is a significant change which undermines the safeguard for the citizen.

Non-trial juriesEdit

File:Wine jury.jpg

Besides petit juries for jury trials and grand juries for issuing indictments, juries are sometimes used in non-legal or quasi-legal contexts. Blue ribbon juries attend to civic matters as an ad-hoc body in the executive branch of a government. Outside government, a jury or panel of judges may make determinations in competition, such as at a wine tasting, art exhibition, or talent contest.

Blue ribbon juries are juries selected from prominent, well-educated citizens, sometimes to investigate a particular problem such as civic corruption. Blue ribbon juries cannot be used in real trials, which require constitutional safeguards to produce a jury of one's peers. The blue-ribbon jury is intended to overcome the problems of ordinary juries in interpreting complex technical or commercial questions. In the United States blue-ribbon juries were provided for by statutes, the terms varying by jurisdiction.

ReferencesEdit

  1. Makdisi, John A. (June 1999), "The Islamic Origins of the Common Law", North Carolina Law Review 77 (5): 1635-1739
  2. Hussain, Jamila (2001), "Book Review: The Justice of Islam by Lawrence Rosen", Melbourne University Law Review 30
  3. "The Islamic Origins of the Common Law - John A. Makdisi". Scribd.com. Retrieved on 2014-01-05.
  4. Oxford History of England, 2nd ed 1955, vol III Domesday Book to Magna Carta, A l Poolepp.397-398
  5. Carey, Christopher. "Legal Space in Classical Athens." Greece & Rome 41(2): Oct. 1994, pp. 172-186.
  6. Review could reduce jury numbers BBC News, 26 April, 2008
  7. Nullifying the Jury: “The Judicial Oligarchy” Declares War on Jury Nullification Washburn Law Journal May 2, 2007
  8. New Statesman, 2000-10-09.

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