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Trial by Jury in the U.S. is as old as the republic itself since it is believed to have originated from enlightened in the 13th century. The Jury consists of twelve individuals who are chosen from all classes of people by lawyers(Nonnie S.B 2006). There individuals are supposed to be over 18 years of age and should not be having anomalies like, deafness, blind or dumb. In the U.S an individual can participate as a Jury in a state where he/she is registered as a resident. Jurors are supposed to attend a trial where they deliberate on the evidence given so as to give a unanimous verdict. The Jury is believed to provide in the judicial system whereby they limit the powers of the judge who in many circumstances give prejudicial judgments, which may not be fair.The jury system exists in many countries, such as Canada and the Great Britain, However it is in the U.S where it is more pronounced and well enshrined in the constitution. In the U.S jurors are involved mostly in serious criminal cases such as murder, rape, assault burglary or fraud and these trials take place in the crown court. However, sometimes although not very often jurors are involved in civil cases especially the libel. In such a case, the trial will take place in the high court or a country court. Jury selection and trial usually occur in an open place except in unusual cases, however, jury deliberations most take place in a secret and located place guarded by the court. The jurors are never guided during their deliberation and are allowed to reach an agreement without interference. The American justice system requires the government to provide evidence before two juries before it can secure a criminal conviction. The first jury is called the “grand jury” whose sole purpose is to approve or reject the charges the government tries to bring against the defendant. Although the grand jury does not judge guilt or innocent, in makes sure that the government does not bring malicious charges against its citizens. the grand jury originated in England in the 12th century and was brought to the us by the British colonists and was incorporated in the federal criminal system with the aim of safeguarding citizens from arbitrary exercises of the government authority(Richard H.H 2007).
In the U.S many people support the jury system with the view that the use of the Jury will help in putting into check the power in the hands of the state, which may be misused by the government if left unlimited. Since the jury is given such powers where verdict they unanimously agree on is taken as ruling lawyers have the duty of selecting jurors whom they believe are in agreement with their view. This is because trails by the jury system only depend on witness and evidence, which may not necessary give a fair base to determine the guilty and the innocent.
The jury system in the U.S is in constant change and it is though to be as a result of lawsuit reaching the Supreme Court as well as due to public demand for reform. The jury initially used to consists of only male individuals but it has changed significantly over the years. recently our supreme court stated that just as voting ensures the people’s control over the legislative and executive, the jury also ensures that the citizens have ultimate control over the judiciary Trials by the jury are taken to be rational, impartial and fair compared to those passed by judges, this is because a jury verdict must be agreed upon by all the twelve jury members regardless of the direction that the verdict takes. To find a person to be guilt all the twelve members of the jury must agree on the defendant’s guilt, equally, an individual is found innocent by all the twelve members.
The uniqueness of the American Jury system is that unlike with where it originated from in England the verdict must be agreed upon by all the jurors for the trial to be taken as concluded but in England there are instances where trails can be reached upon if ten out of the twelve members agree. In U.S also even if it is difficult to have a representation similar to the peer as it is theoretically taken, there is diversity and this makes judgment to be objective unlike if people of the same social class or colour judged themselves there are high chances of biasness something that the Jury system fights to limit. However in recent years many high profile cases have associated with unfairness leading to increased suspicion a situation that puts the system far away from perfect something that most American have been yearning for many years.
Pros and cons of the Jury system
The critics of the U.S Jury system who are both with the U.S and outside argue that the American Jury system is not the best in the administration of criminal justice. They start by first identifying the cost associated with identifying and involvement of the twelve jurors, they feel that using them is an extra expense which can be avoided. This is because trial judges spend most of their time in reviewing the challenges faced the already concluded trials (Christopher A,W.2004).
The court staff on the other hand also directs their energies in making sure that those citizen who have been chosen to participate as Jurors are comfortable during their stay in the court premises. They do this by preparing Juror lists, mailing summons to Jurors as well as conducting Jury education seasons. They are also involved in paying the Jurors their allowances, which include costs for meals and accommodation during deliberations.
Some critics also argue that since selection of Jurors is random among the wider population, there are instances where illiterate individuals are chosen to serve as Jurors. These individuals are likely not to understand and interpret the complex evidences and are easily manipulated by other well-educated Jurors and thus compromising fair trials. These critics propose that a group of professional Jurors with specialized expertise in legal and evidence issues should be created from which some would be selected to serve as Jurors in trial after trial thus increasing their knowledge base and experience. This will ultimately limit the chances of biasness and partial trials and increase efficiency and effectiveness..
Admittedly, maintaining the U. S. criminals’ justice is very costly since it requires a lot of effort as well as resources, however, these costs are far much less compared with the benefits to our society (Vikram D.A 2005). In my understanding I believe that Jurors are conscious, fair impartial and open-minded in analyzing the evidence and reaching the verdict, even in complex and moving cases. Also the issue of selecting Jurors from among the citizens allows them to learn much about the criminal court system and its responsibility in promoting equality and loyalty among the citizens. This in turn leads into uplifting the virtues of a system that most individuals have always taken for granted for many years.
Indeed, despite the fact that most of the individuals who are chosen to participate as Jurors feel interrupted in their personal and professional lives, most of them get very appreciative and respective to the criminal justice system of the U.S. unlike before ending up spreading the same message to the entire population.
Juries also take fundamental part in the preservation of the social order, when involved in judging their fellow citizens offense, the jury system makes sure that the voice that discourages crime and the hand involved in inflicting punishment all come not from some unfriendly or far away government but from other citizens of our country/state. This helps in justifying the punishment given to defendants, reinforcing standards of proper, law-abiding behavior throughout the society. An official condemnation of unlawful behavior is more likely to have positive effects if punishment associated with wrongdoing is from one’s peers. Also since lawbreakers know that the judgment will be done in the open by their fellow citizens, the jury system encourages victims to let the government to prosecute and punish criminals instead of taking the law into their own hands. This deters criminology as well enforcing social order.
Richard H. Honaker, 30 WYO. Law. 18 (April 2007), Feature perspectives on a Jury System.
Nonnie D. Burnes, 50 B. B.J (May/ June 2006), Department “Where Do Jurors come From?” and other things about the Jury System you never learned in the law school.
Vikram David Amor, 47 S. Tex. L. Rev. 291 (2005), Implementing and Historical Vision Of the Jury in and Age of Administrative Fact Finding and Sentencing Guidelines.
Christopher A. Wray, 2004. The Jury System in the United States. 9th Annual Conference Seoul accessed on 9/10/2007.