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Explain some of the arguments that favor and oppose allowing jurors to ask questions of witnesses during a criminal trial
Permitting jurors to ask questions in the hearing of criminal cases has been a controversial issue in the recent past. This essay will evaluate some of the arguments that have been presented for both sides of the divide. To start with an evaluation of the benefits accruing from the allowing of the jurors to ask questions.
First, asking witnesses questions guarantees that there will be no confusion in the discussion and evaluation of the facts of the case and the adjoining evidence. This helps better understand the different facets of the case. Secondly, it must be mentioned that jurors will at times be disinterested in other case presentations (American Jury Project, 2005). When allowed to ask questions, they will be able to concentrate more and deliver an informed and reasonable verdict. In addition, attorneys are a pivotal part of any criminal case hearing (Tybor, 2012). For this reason therefore, through interrogation of the witnesses, the attorneys in the case will be able to create a context within which they will be able to understand the case and all its disparities.
On the issue of drawbacks, timely dispensation of decisions will be curtailed. A criminal case might drag on for a long time because every juror would want a clarification on a particular issue that is raised in court (Reichel, 2012). Asking too many questions by the jurors might also disorient the case strategy that the different attorneys might have prepared (Sweat, 2014). Since jurors are not trained in all matters regarding trial advocacy, they might at times be disoriented by the sort of answers they will receive from hostile witnesses. Lastly, the ability of different jurors to remain neutral might be affected by the fact that they might be swayed by other arguments that seem stronger than others.
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- American Jury Project (2005). Principles for juries and jury trials. Chicago, IL: American Bar Association.
- Reichel, P (2013). Comparative Criminal Justice Systems: A Topical Approach. Sixth ed. Pearson, 2013. Print.
- Sweat, K. L. (2014). Juror Questioning of Witnesses in Criminal Trials: The Jury’s Still out in Illinois. U. Ill. L. Rev., 271.
- Tybor, J. R. (2012). New rule will allow jurors to submit questions in civil trials. Press release: Supreme Court of Illinois.