The concept of the Constitutional right to jury trial



Criminal law involves all the steps and processes that must be met to ensure all accused individuals face the law fairly. This includes the use of the criminal procedure, where it might differ depending on the jurisdiction of the criminal case. Despite the disparities in criminal procedures, they all end up in two ways, either convicting or acquitting the accused. The criminal procedure involves criminal trial, which leads to the concept or aspect of trial by jury. Trial by jury is a component of criminal law where the system is used in making decisions associated with critical criminal cases. The aim of this review is to analyse the concept or aspect of the Constitutional right to jury trial. The paper will also focus on matters relating to the jury trial and the reason some countries or regions reject this system of criminal trial.

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A Constitutional Right to Jury Trial

A trial by jury involves the jury making decisions regarding the findings of a criminal case where the decisions made are meant to guide the actions of the judge after the proceedings of the case. The jury consists of a panel of judges where they discuss and analyse all issues relating to the case; hence, making decisions that decide the ruling of the case. This system of trial differs from a bench trial system since it involves using a panel of judges to guide the proceedings rather than using a single judge. There are a series of claims believing that this system of the trial was established in Magna Carta, 1215, clause 39, as a constitutional right. The clause advocated for a trial by peers where it stated that no individual should be imprisoned or exiled without the lawful judgment of his peers. Trial by jury was then adopted by the British colonies including the United States of America through the English common law system. Many traditions associated with trial by jury originated in England including the members of a jury being twelve.

A Constitutional right to jury trial is considered in most countries as a right enjoyed by the accused persons in criminal persecutions. For instance, in the United States, the Sixth Amendment of the Constitution states the rights related to criminal law where the procedures for handling criminals are clearly stated. This Amendment provides for a speedy trial of the accused where a jury of the region where the crime has been committed shall conduct the trial and witnesses belonging to both sides present. This is an indication that trial by jury is a constitutional right enjoyed by the accused persons in criminal law. The right to a jury depends on the nature of the criminal case; that is, petty offences do not experience the jury requirement. Petty offences involve those punishable by imprisonment of fewer than six months; hence, trial by jury involves serious crimes such as murder.

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Activities in a Trial by Jury

Activities in a jury trial illustrate what happens during the proceedings and the significance of the actions. A trial by jury begins with opening statements from both sides; that is, the plaintiff and the accused party. The opening statements enable both parties to communicate to the jury what their expectations are regarding the evidence and their final decision. The jury has a right to call witnesses from both parties to present their arguments or evidence that may have a bearing in the decision-making process. The jury should then conduct an effective analysis of the criminal case where it should come up with a unanimous decision. The jury’s representative then communicates the decision by the jury to the judge, where the decision guides the judge in making the court’s ruling.

Why the Jury System is opposed

This system of trial receives criticism from most courts and individuals due to its nature of operating and decision-making. The criticism has led to the abolishing of the trial by jury by several countries such as India, which claims the system is biased. Some of the reasons leading to the rejection of this system include lack of experience, the jury may lack interest in the case, members of a jury are selected randomly, and lack of specific requirements to join a jury.

Lack of Experience

This involves the members to a jury lacking the skills and expertise required in the handling of a criminal case. It also involves selecting members who have never engaged in a trial by jury; hence, leading to the unfair ruling by the court. The lack of experience may also lead to biases, where the members of the jury are guided by their self-interests in handling the criminal cases. Therefore, the possibility of lack of experience by the jury has led to individuals rejecting the system of trial.

Lack of Interest

The jury may lack interest in the case it is handling; hence, leading to boredom during the court proceedings. The act of becoming bored during the trial may affect the court’s decision since the jury fails to follow up on key information of the criminal case. Becoming bored may also slow the trial where the proceedings may last for a longer duration due to the lack of a decision from the jury. Lacking interest in the trial by the jury may lead to the making of wrong convictions by the court; hence, the system being unfair and unjust.

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Random Selection

The system of selecting members of a jury differs depending on the region where the system is being applied. Despite the difference in methodology, the most common method is random selection where lawyers and judges select members through speak the truth policy. During this selection process, the members may lie to get the opportunity of being included in the jury. This random selection may lead to having dishonest jury members; hence, increasing the chances of the court being biased.

Lack of Specific Requirements

There are no specific requirements to join a jury; hence, any individual may opt to join it. This is another challenge associated with this system of the trial since the lack of clear guidelines may negatively affect how the jury operates. It may consist of members from both parties in court which may lead to conflict among them; hence, no decisions are made. The members may also fail to recognise the importance of the criminal case leading to poor decision making by the team.

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Therefore, from the review one can identify or establish how trial by jury works in a criminal case. The system involves using a panel of judges to analyse the case and make decisions that are utilised by the judge in making the final verdict. Trial by jury is a Constitutional right enjoyed by the accused persons in criminal law. The Magna Carta Clause 39 initially recognised this right, where it later spread to other British colonies such as the US. This system of the trial has faced opposition due to the weaknesses it portrays. Some of the weaknesses include lack of experience and interest by the members of the jury, random selection, and lack of specific requirements or guidelines in selecting a jury.

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  1. Clermont, Kevin M., and Theodore Eisenberg. “Trial by jury or judge: Transcending Empiricism.” Cornell L. Rev. 77 (1991): 1124.
  2. Darbyshire, Penny. “The Lamp That Shows That Freedom Lives—Is It Worth the Candle?.” Criminal Law Review 740 (1991).
  3. Oldham, James. Trial by jury: the Seventh Amendment and Anglo-American special juries. NYU Press, 2006.
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