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Jurors represent a principal part of the legal system. Individuals are entitled to a jury in all cases unless the offence that is under question is a minor offence, however, minor civil cases such as assault and defamation cases may require the contribution of a jury. However, not all legal cases demand the presence of a jury. The jury is comprised of 12 selected members of the public, who are required to sit one side in the court room. It is integral to note that one of the jurors is chosen as the foreman by the other members, prior to the beginning of the court case. The individual is required to act as the voice of the jury and voice all their concerns and decisions. It is integral to note that the 12 individuals are selected from the different number of persons who the court requires to serve as the jury on a given day (“Role of the jury”, 2014).
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One of the major concerns of American leaders after the United States attained independence was the prevention of an oppressive government. This resulted in the emergence of the Bill or Rights, which was developed from that concern, incorporating the provisions on the unreasonable captures and searches, the right to trial in the presence of a jury and incrimination (“Role of the jury”, 2014). In reference to the right to a trial in the presence of a jury, it is clear that it plays a major role in ascertaining justice and fairness in the criminal justice system.
History of the Emergence and Evolution of Juries
Inviting juries to listen to criminal and civil cases was a common practice in different parts of the world, including Greece, Rome and Egypt. English juries have played a significant part in moulding the American jury system (Hans & Vidmar, n.d.). During the colonial times in America, the jury transformed into a principal symbol of rebelling against the King in Britain. One notable complaint of the colonists was the denial of rights that were granted to Englishmen, one of which constituted the right to trial based on the Magna Carta (1215) (“Origins and Foundations of American Courts”, n.d.). The document held numerous references to juries and trials. The Common Pleas were required to be held in a given place in the presence of juries, which comprised of honest members of the community.
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However, trial through a jury was not implemented to the colonists. Early characters, including the Virginia Company, mentioned the presence and need for such rights (“History of Trial by Jury”, n.d.). In 1735, the jury found John Peter not guilty since the different aspects that were contained in his letter to the governor were true (“History of Trial by Jury”, n.d.). The jurors that were positioned in Virginia possessed significant latitude in making decisions in numerous cases (“Origins and Foundations of American Courts”, n.d.). The juries could also initiate verdicts for different offences in place of the offences that a given defendant was charged.
The colonists responded by guaranteeing Americans trial via juries. In 1765, the First Congress of American Colonies proposed the trial of people using juries whereas the First Continental Congress of 1774 noted “…”that the respective 3 colonies were entitled to the common law of England and more especially to the great and inestimable privilege of being tried by peers of the vicinage, according to the course of that law” (“Origins and Foundations of American Courts”, n.d.). Thomas Jefferson, in the Declaration of Independence, dismissed numerous aspects regarding the conduct of King George, including the claim that he was responsible for the obstruction of justice through dismissing requests to approve the laws for the establishment of judicial powers, which made judges rely on his mercy for appointment and salaries. Jefferson also accused the King of obstructing the right of Americans to be tried via juries. The complains and claims resulted in the development of the United States Constitution I 1787 based on the need for people to be liberated from tyranny and any form of dictatorship.
There are two forms of juries, which include petit and grand durries. Petit juries represent members of the jury that are sworn to listen to criminal and civil trials and present their determination of the case. On the other hand, Grand jurors are tasked with the reception of complaints and various accusations in different criminal cases after which they hear the evidence presented by the prosecution and apply the required bills of indictment (“Origins and Foundations of American Courts”, n.d.). A Grand jury can be comprised of 15 members but should have a minimum of 12 members.
Legal Guidelines Regarding Jurors
Based on Section 23 that is located in the Courts and Civil Law Act (2013), the jury can comprise of 12 to 15 members, particularly if the case is anticipated to last over 2 months (“Role of the jury”, 2014). Developments classified the given offences classifying them as punishable by the law. Jurors are required to attend all case proceedings. In case they are unable to attend, they should give viable reasons of not being available when called upon to offer their service as jurors. Moreover, the jurors should be fit during all trials and avoid any external influences that may cloud their judgement such as alcohol and drugs. False representation was also eliminated by the act that demanded the elimination of causing and making on the behalf of a juror. All decisions were to be made by all members of the juror in an individual manner.
The Jurors Act (1976) also criminalized the practice of individuals serving as members of the jury in acknowledgement of their ineligibility and disqualification as possible members of the jury (“Role of the jury”, 2014). The jurors are also required to be truthful to the judge and avoid any false and misdirecting answers to the judge in reference to any questions regarding their qualification for jury service. It also criminalized the action of making and causing to be made, in reference to actions and decisions, on behalf of an individual that was summoned as a juror thus avoiding any false representations to permit an individual to evade their duty to serve in the jury.
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Benefits and Limitations of Trial in the presence of a Jury
The United States took a significant amount of time to acknowledge the right to a jury in all criminal cases, federal and state; however, the current position of the law is based on the Sixth Amendment positioned in the United States Constitution, which allocates every individual the right to a jury in anybody facing a trial that could result in a sentence of over six months imprisonment. In other words, all defendants do not have the right to the presence of a jury since not all offences attract imprisonment of over 6 months. In numerous states in the United States, juries are not accorded to minors, particularly in juvenile delinquency proceedings.
One principal strength of any jury trial is its ability to monitor the prosecution power of other participants in the trial. Prosecutors are observed to have a significant amount of power especially when they make decisions regarding the need to charge a given defendant with a particular crime, including the charges against he defendant. Thus, the prosecution should make the decision while considering that a group of strangers will judge them as they present their evidence and argument. Prosecutors do not wish to waste any time on a case that might not convince the jurors and the judges while evaluating the case.
Also, decisions made by judges may come into question thus raising different concerns regarding the viability of such decisions. For instance, the judges that are responsible for a given case could have a given political stand and interest from people that appoint them. Moreover, elected judges have the possibility of being influenced by public opinion on a particular case (Hans & Vidmar, n.d.). On the other hand, jurors are not assigned their juries and they, instead, work as members of the jury as a civic duty. There are numerous cases where public opinion brings about a shift in perception on one side of the case. In such cases, the jury plays an integral role in ascertaining that the media and public have minimal influence on the outcome of the case.
Additionally, jurors are also lay-individuals who are required to understand the given legal concepts and use the concepts to make a decision regarding the case devoid of any emotional or psychological interests and influence. It does not present a simple task since every individual is influenced by their emotions to some extent. Their ability to interpret complex concepts and apply them to the case makes them suitable to present their opinion regarding the trial.
Roles and Responsibilities
The Constitution is observed to approve the application of one’s peers to the case, which is interpreted to mean the application of members of one’s community as part of the jury. Juries are chosen and put in the panel prior to the beginning of the trial in a procedure that is referred to as voir dire. During this process, the attorneys and the judges may request the jurors to answer different questions to gauge their capacity to serve and maintain neutrality throughout the case. Attorneys are permitted to reject different jurors based on concrete reasons. However, peremptory challenges are dismissed to avoid the creation of a jury that is bound to favour a given side (“What is the Role of a Jury in a Criminal Case? – FindLaw”, n.d.).
The jurors are tasked with the responsibility of deciding the facts of the case, including the decision of whether an individual should be charged guilty of any crime that the defendant is charged. The jurors are responsible for deciding the facts that surround the case while referring to the evidence and testimonies presented (“What is the Role of a Jury in a Criminal Case? – FindLaw”, n.d.). Hence, jurors are tasked with an integral role in the criminal justice system, which is making a decision on the facts of the case and determining whether a given individual is guilty or not in reference to the offence that a person has been charged.
The jury is required to make their decision based on all the evidence and testimonies that are offered y different sides in the court, including the directions of the judge regarding the matter. It is imperative to note that the jury is not required to interpret the law, therefore, the jury references the judge in case of any conflict regarding the legal interpretation of any law.
The jury listens to all the evidence presented against the dependent and gauges the viability of the evidence in supporting the innocence or guilt of the defendant (“What is the Role of a Jury in a Criminal Case? – FindLaw”, n.d.). The jury must determine if the evidence meets the given requirements to satisfy the classification of a given charge as a criminal offence beyond reasonable doubt. The jury is tasked with discussion of evidence and attaining the required consensus to declare a given person as guilty of the crime.
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After the end of the trial, jurors are assigned an issue paper that gives details on all the problems that the jury should consider prior to making their decision. The jurors discuss the issues extensively in the juror room to develop a viable conclusion regarding the case (“What is the Role of a Jury in a Criminal Case? – FindLaw”, n.d.). Finally, jurors are required to present their case and argument to the court for determination of the case by the presiding judge.
Procedure of Reaching Verdict
In order for the jury to make a decision, they are required to consider all the evidence that is presented before the court, including the different directions that are given by the judge. However, the jury does not participate in the interpretation of the law but is required to adhere to all the directions that are provided by the judge in reference to all the legal matters. In order to conclude all the matters regarding a given trial, jurors are required to issue a paper that states all the problems that the jury should examine prior to making the final verdict. Despite a jury being allowed up to 15 members, it is integral to note that only 12 participate in making and presenting the final decision (“Role of the jury”, 2014).
A Court Gada or another court official assigned by the judge is tasked with keeping the jury together until the overall verdict is announced by the jury (“Role of the jury”, 2014). During the actual verdict, the jury is confined to a room and permitted no external communication entirely; however, The Court Registrar is given permission to communicate with the jury. Moreover, the jury may retain the copy of the indictments, personal notes and the court exhibits.
Jurors are also permitted to send written notes inquiring for explanation on the laws that determine the case, from the judge and reminders of the details of the case. The judge is responsible for offering such kind of assistance but no emerging evidence is allowed from this point. Thus, the jury makes their decision based on all the details and evidence that is presented in the court of law.
After the jury attains their verdict during the criminal trial, the jury should be satisfied that the individual is either guilty based on their assessment. The decision should be beyond reasonable doubt, which means that the jury should declare the individual guilty devoid of any loopholes in their decision, while considering all factors, testimonies, evidence and the legal guidelines (“Role of the jury”, 2014). In the case of civil cases, the jury is required to decide the case based on the balance of probabilities.
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The verdict does not demand that the jury is unanimous during the negotiation, in any criminal case, the verdict is not demanded to be unanimous, especially in situations where there are over 11 jurors and over 10 of them agree on the determined verdict. The time is set at 2 hours during which the jury discuss the case and determine the avoidance on doubt prior to making their decision, in any civil trial, the verdict should be attained by over 9 members (“Role of the jury”, 2014). After the jury attains its final decision, they are required to return to the court after which the foreman presents their decision on behalf of the rest of the members. However, the jury is not tasked with sentencing, thus, the decision is left to the judge who determines the case based on the submissions made by both sides.
The jurors are required to remain neutral throughout the case and determine the case in an impartial and independent manner. Therefore, no external influences should influence the decision of one or more of the jurors. In addition, the jurors should remain unaltered by any individual in or outside the court. It is considered an offence for an individual that is not classified as part of the jurors to try and influence the decision or stand of a given juror in any manner. In case jurors face threats of are influenced in any given manner, they are required to inform the court and a member of the Gardaí. Following the report, the court should take action to ensure that the person is tried for contempt of court (“Role of the jury”, 2014).
The statements that are made in the jury room should be confidential. Consequently, all jurors are required to maintain confidentiality and refrain from discussing the details with any other individual who is not a member of the jury. Discussing the details with other members outside of the court is considered to be contempt of court and is punishable via imprisonment and fines to prevent information from leaking from the jury room (“Role of the jury”, 2014).
From the discussion, it is evident that the jury system presents an imperative responsibility and right of American citizenship. Juries serve numerous important roles that transform them into vital members of the criminal justice system. Juries act as the arbiter in the case to examine any conflict of facts and evidence that is offered to the court of law. In addition, the study acknowledges their role in introducing the community values and sentiments regarding the judicial process and the decisions that are made in the court of law. As noted in the study, they also help boost the public appreciation of any decision that is made by the court since the public feel involved in the process. The evolution of the historical appreciation of the purpose of juries serves to boost the willingness and capacity of citizens to participate as impartial jurors after they are called to judge by their peers. The application of juries constitutes an integral part of the American Judicial system.
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