The word jury derives from Anglo-Norman juré ("sworn"). Juries are most common in common law adversarial-system jurisdictions. In the modern system, juries act as triers of fact, while judges act as triers of law (but see nullification). 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", sometimes "petty 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 involving serious felonies there are usually 12 jurors.
In civil cases many trials require fewer than twelve jurors.
A grand jury, a type of jury now confined almost exclusively to federal courts and some state 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, usually with 12 jurors. It is not required that a suspect be notified of grand jury proceedings. Grand juries can also be used for filing charges in the form of a sealed indictment against unaware suspects who are arrested later by a surprise police visit.
In addition to their primary role in screening criminal prosecutions and assisting in the investigation of crimes, grand juries in California, Florida, and some other U.S. states are sometimes utilized to perform an investigative and policy audit function similar to that filled by the Government Accountability Office in the United States federal government and legislative state auditors in many U.S. states.
A third kind of jury, known as a coroner's jury can be convened in some common law jurisdiction in connection with an inquest by a coroner. A coroner is a public official (often an elected local government official in the United States), who is charged with determining the circumstances leading to a death in ambiguous or suspicious cases. A coroner's jury is generally a body that a coroner can convene on an optional basis in order to increase public confidence in the coroner's finding where there might otherwise be a controversy. In practice, coroner's juries are most often convened in order to avoid the appearance of impropriety by one governmental official in the criminal justice system toward another if no charges are filed against the person causing the death, when a governmental party such as a law enforcement officer is involved in the death.
Serving on a jury is normally compulsory for individuals who are qualified for jury service. A jury is intended to be an impartial panel capable of reaching a verdict. Procedures and requirements include a fluent understanding of the language, or the ability to test jurors' neutrality or otherwise exclude jurors who are perceived as less than neutral or more partial to one side or the other. Juries are initially chosen randomly, usually from the eligible population of adult citizens residing in the court's jurisdictional area. Jury selection in the United States usually includes organized questioning of the prospective jurors (jury pool) by the lawyers for the plaintiff and the defendant and by the judge—voir dire—as well as rejecting some jurors because of bias or inability to properly serve ("challenge for cause"), and the discretionary right of each side to reject a specified number of jurors without having to prove a proper cause for the rejection ("peremptory challenge"), before the jury is impaneled.
A head juror is called the "foreperson," "foreman" or "presiding juror". The foreperson is sometimes chosen before the trial begins and other times upon the beginning of deliberations. The foreperson may be selected by the judge or by vote of the jurors, depending on the jurisdiction. The foreperson's role may include to ask questions (usually to the judge) on behalf of the jury, to facilitate jury discussions, and sometimes to read the verdict of the jury.
Since there is always the possibility of jurors not completing a trial for health or other reasons, often one or more alternate jurors are selected. Alternates are present for the entire trial but do not take part in deliberating the case and deciding the verdict unless one or more of the impaneled jurors are removed from the jury. In Connecticut, alternate jurors are dismissed before the panel of sworn jurors begin deliberation. Connecticut General Statutes 51-243(e) and 54-82h do not allow alternate jurors to be segregated from the regular sworn jurors. In civil cases in Connecticut, C.G.S. 51-243(e) provides that alternate jurors "shall be dismissed." This differs from the power given to the court in criminal trials under C.G.S. 54-82h, permitting the court not to dismiss the alternate jurors, and to have the regular jury panel begin deliberations.
When an insufficient number of summoned jurors appear in court to handle a matter, the law in many jurisdictions empowers the jury commissioner or other official convening the jury to involuntarily impress bystanders in the vicinity of the place where the jury is to be convened to serve on the jury.
The modern jury evolved out of the ancient custom of many ancient Germanic tribes whereby a group of men of good character was used to investigate crimes and/or judge the accused. The same custom evolved into the vehmic court system in medieval Germany. In Anglo-Saxon England, juries investigated crimes. After the Norman Conquest, some parts of the country preserved juries as the means of investigating crimes. The use of ordinary members of the community to consider crimes was unusual in ancient cultures, but was nonetheless also found in ancient Greece.
The modern jury trial evolved out of this custom in the mid-12th century during the reign of Henry II. Juries, usually 6 or 12 men, were an "ancient institution" even then in some parts of England, at the same time as Members consisted of representatives of the basic units of local government—hundreds (an administrative sub-division of the shire, embracing several vills) and villages. Called juries of presentment, these men testified under oath to crimes committed in their neighbourhood. The Assize of Clarendon in 1166 caused these juries to be adopted systematically throughout the country. The jury in this period was "self-informing," meaning it heard very little evidence or testimony in court. Instead, jurors were recruited from the locality of the dispute and were expected to know the facts before coming to court. The source of juror knowledge could include first-hand knowledge, investigation, and less reliable sources such as rumour and hearsay. John A. Makdisi argues that many concepts of English common law, including juries at least partly, derive from Islamic law. In the same period as William the Conqueror conquered England, Norman adventurers led by Robert Guiscard had taken Sicily, previously under the Arab Fatimid Caliphate. Thus, Makdisi claims, English law became influenced by the Islamic law used in Sicily under the Fatimids, including the use of the twelve man jury. Makdisi suggests that Henry II's laws would have been influenced through people such as Thomas Brown, a member of Henry's government who had previously served in the Sicilian government.
Between 1166 and 1179 new procedures including a division of functions between the sheriff, the jury of local men, and the royal justices ushered in the era of the English Common Law. Sheriffs prepared cases for trial and found jurors with relevant knowledge and testimony. Jurors 'found' a verdict by witnessing as to fact, even assessing and applying information from their own and community memory—little was written at this time and what was, such as deeds and writs, were subject to fraud. Royal justices supervised trials, answered questions as to law, and announced the court's decision which was then subject to appeal. Sheriffs executed the decision of the court. These procedures enabled Henry II to delegate authority without endowing his subordinates with too much power. ("Henry II" 293)
In 1215 the Catholic Church removed its sanction from all forms of ordeal—procedures by which suspects up to that time were 'tested' as to guilt (e.g., in the ordeal of hot metal, molten metal was sometimes poured into a suspected thief's hand. If the wound healed rapidly and well, it was believed God found the suspect innocent, and if not then the suspect was found guilty). With trial by ordeal banned, establishing guilt would have been problematic had England not had forty years of judicial experience. Justices were by then accustomed to asking jurors of presentment about points of fact in assessing indictments; it was a short step to ask jurors if they concluded the accused was guilty as charged. ("Henry II" 358)
An early reference to a jury type group in England is in a decree issued by Aethelred at Wantage (997), which provided that in every Hundred "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." The resulting Wantage Code formally recognized legal customs that were part of the Danelaw.
The testimonial 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.
One of the earliest antecedents of modern jury systems is the jury in ancient Greece, including the city-state of Athens, where records of jury courts date back to 500 BCE. These juries voted by secret ballot and were eventually granted the power to annul unconstitutional laws, thus introducing the practice of judicial review. In modern justice systems, law is considered "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."
In juries of the Justices in Eyre, the bailiff of the hundred would choose 4 electors who in turn chose 12 others from their hundred, and from these were selected 12 jurors.
In 1730, the British Parliament passed the Bill for Better Regulation of Juries. The Act stipulated that the list of all those liable for jury service was to be posted in each parish and that jury panels would be selected by lot, also known as sortition, from these lists. Its aim was to prevent middle-class citizens from evading their responsibilities by financially putting into question the neutrality of the under-sheriff, the official entrusted with impanelling juries.
Prior to the Act, the main means of ensuring impartiality was by allowing legal challenges to the sheriff's choices. The new provisions did not specifically aim at establishing impartiality, but had the effect of reinforcing the authority of the jury by guaranteeing impartiality at the point of selection.
The example of early 18th century England legal reform shows how civic lotteries can be used to organize the duties and responsibilities of the citizen body in relation to the state. It established the impartiality and neutrality of juries as well as reiterating the dual nature of the citizen-state relationship. The need for a leader/organizer in a jury is very important, in order to get a proper and agreed verdict.
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, 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, which is thought to be the largest in the world. In 2009 a review by the Scottish Government regarding the possibility of reduction led to the decision to retain 15 jurors, with the Secretary for Justice stating that after extensive consultation, he had decided that Scotland had got it "uniquely right". Trials in the Republic of Ireland which are scheduled to last over 2 months can, but do not have to, have 15 jurors.
A study by the University of Glasgow suggested that a civil jury of 12 people was ineffective because a few jurors ended up dominating the discussion, and that seven was a better number because more people feel comfortable speaking, and they have an easier time reaching a unanimous decision.
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 or Internet accounts) and not to 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. Rarely, such as in very high-profile cases, the court may order a jury sequestered for the deliberation phase or for the entire trial.
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 offense. In the United States, confidentiality is usually only required until a verdict has been reached, and jurors have sometimes made remarks that called into question whether a verdict was properly reached. In Australia, academics are permitted to scrutinize the jury process only after obtaining a certificate or approval from the Attorney-General.
Because of the importance of preventing 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.
The role of the jury is described as that of 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 determines the truth or falsity of factual allegations and renders a verdict on whether a criminal defendant is guilty, or a civil defendant is civilly liable. Sometimes a jury makes specific findings of fact in what is called a "special verdict." A verdict without specific findings of fact that includes only findings of guilt, or civil liability and an overall amount of civil damages, if awarded, is called a "general verdict."
Juries are often justified because they leaven the law with community norms. A jury trial verdict in a case is binding only in that case, and is not a legally binding precedent in other cases. For example, it would be possible for one jury to find that particular conduct is negligent, and another jury to find that the conduct is not negligent, without either verdict being legally invalid, on precisely the same factual evidence. Of course, no two witnesses are exactly the same, and even the same witness will not express testimony in exactly the same way twice, so this would be difficult to prove. It is the role of the judge, not the jury, to determine what law applies to a particular set of facts. However, occasionally jurors find the law to be invalid or unfair, and on that basis acquit the defendant, regardless of the evidence presented that the defendant violated the law. This is commonly referred to as "jury nullification of law" or simply 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, 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 significantly between countries.
The collective knowledge and deliberate nature of juries are also given as reasons in their favor:
Detailed interviews with jurors after they rendered verdicts in trials involving complex expert testimony have demonstrated careful and critical analysis. The interviewed jurors clearly recognized that the experts were selected within an adversary process. They employed sensible techniques to evaluate the experts’ testimony, such as assessing the completeness and consistency of the testimony, comparing it with other evidence at the trial, and evaluating it against their own knowledge and life experience. Moreover, the research shows that in deliberations jurors combine their individual perspectives on the evidence and debate its relative merits before arriving at a verdict.
In the United States, juries are sometimes called on, when asked to do so by a judge in the jury instructions, to make factual findings on particular issues. This may include, for example, 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, 542 U.S. 296 (2004), 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, 530 U.S. 466 (2000) resulted in the Supreme Court's expansion of the requirement to all criminal 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".
Many U.S. jurisdictions permit the seating of an advisory jury in a civil case in which there is no right to trial by jury to provide non-binding advice to the trial judge, although this procedural tool is rarely used. For example, a judge might seat an advisory jury to guide the judge in awarding non-economic damages (such as "pain and suffering" damages) in a case where there is no right to a jury trial, such as (depending on state law) a case involving "equitable" rather than "legal" claims.
In Canada, juries are also allowed to make suggestions for sentencing periods 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. In a small number of U.S. jurisdictions, including the states of Tennessee and Texas, juries are charged both with the task of finding guilt or innocence as well assessing and fixing sentences.
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.
In legal systems based on English tradition, findings of fact by a jury, and jury conclusions that could be supported by jury findings of fact even if the specific factual basis for the verdict is not known, are entitled to great deference on appeal. In other legal systems, it is generally possible for an appellate court to reconsider both findings of fact and conclusions of law made in the trial court, and in those systems evidence may be presented to appellate courts in what amounts to a trial de novo (new trial) of appealed findings of fact. The finality of trial court findings of fact in legal systems based on the English tradition has major impact on court procedure in these systems. This makes it imperative that lawyers be highly prepared for trial because errors and misjudgments related to the presentation of evidence at trial to a jury cannot generally be corrected later on appeal, particularly in court systems based on the English tradition. The higher the stakes, the more this is true. Surprises at trial are much more consequential in court systems based on the English tradition than they are in other legal systems.
Jury nullification means deciding not to apply the law to the facts in a particular case by jury decision. In other words, it is "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."
In the 17th and 18th centuries there was a series of such cases, starting in 1670 with the trial of the Quaker William Penn which asserted the (de facto) right, or at least power, of a jury to render 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 render 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 the judge's instructions concerning what is the law, and to render a verdict solely on the evidence presented in court. Important past exercises of nullification 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 United States v. Moylan, 417 F.2d 1002 (4th. Cir. 1969), 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 seeking the passage of laws to require judges to inform jurors that they can and should judge the law. In Sparf v. United States, 156 U.S. 51 (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.
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.
The standard justification of jury equity is taken from the final few pages of Lord Devlin's book "Trial by Jury". Devlin explained jury equity through two now-famous metaphors: that the jury is "the lamp that shows that freedom lives" and that it is a "little parliament". The second metaphor emphasises that, just as members of parliament are generally dominated by government but can occasionally assert their independence, juries are usually dominated by judges but can, in extraordinary circumstances, throw off this control. Devlin thereby sought to emphasise that neither jury equity nor judicial control are set in stone.
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 section 2 of the Official Secrets Act 1911 in 1985. Mr Ponting's defence 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.
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.
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, talent contest, or reality game show. These types of contests are juried competitions.
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.
Each state may determine the extent to which the use of a jury is used. The use of a jury is optional for civil trials in any Australian state. The use of a jury in criminal trials is generally by unanimous verdict of 12 lay members of the public. Some States provide exceptions such as majority (11-to-1 or 10-to-2) verdicts where a jury cannot otherwise reach a verdict. Sometimes a state law may allow an accused person to elect to use a judge-only trial rather than the default jury provision.
The Constitution of Australia provides in section 80 that 'the trial on indictment of any offence against any law of the Commonwealth shall be by jury'. The Commonwealth can determine which offences are 'on indictment'. It would be entirely consistent with the Constitution that a homicide offence could be tried not 'on indictment,' or conversely that a simple Assault could be tried 'on indictment.' This interpretation has been criticised a 'mockery' of the section, rendering it useless.
Where a trial 'on indictment' has been prescribed, it is an essential element that it be found by a unanimous verdict of guilty by 12 lay members of the public. This requirement stems from the (historical) meaning of 'jury' at the time that the Constitution was written and is (in principle) thus an integral element of trial by jury. Unlike States, an accused person cannot elect a Judge-only trial.
The Belgian Constitution provides that all cases involving the most serious crimes be judged by juries. As a safeguard against libel cases, press crimes can also only be tried by jury. Racism is excluded from this safeguard.
Twelve jurors decide by a qualified majority of two-thirds whether the defendant is guilty or not. A tied vote results in 'not guilty'; a '7 guilty - 5 not guilty' vote is transferred to the 3 professional judges who can, by unanimity, reverse the majority to 'not guilty'. The sentence is delivered by a majority of the 12 jurors and the 3 professional judges. As a result of the Taxquet ruling the juries give nowadays the most important motives that lead them to their verdict. The procedural codification has been altered to meet the demands formulated by the European Court of Human Rights.
The Constitution of Brazil provides that only willful crimes against life, namely full or attempted murder, abortion, infanticide and suicide instigation, be judged by juries. Seven jurors vote in secret to decide whether the defendant is guilty or not, and decisions are taken by majority.
Manslaughter and other crimes in which the killing was committed without intent, however, are judged by a professional judge instead.
In Canada, juries are used for some criminal trials but not others. For summary conviction offences or offences found under section 553 of the Criminal Code (theft and fraud up to the value of $5,000 and certain nuisance offences), the trial is before a judge alone. For most indictable offences, the accused person can elect to be tried by either a judge alone or a judge and jury. In the most serious offences, found in section 469 of the Criminal Code (such as murder or treason), a judge and a jury are always used, unless both the accused and the prosecutor agree that the trial should not be in front of a jury. The jury's verdict on the ultimate disposition of guilt or innocence must be unanimous, but can disagree on the evidentiary route that leads to that disposition.
Juries do not make a recommendation as to the length of sentence, except for parole ineligibility for second-degree murder (but the judge is not bound by the jury's recommendation, and the jury is not required to make a recommendation).
Jury selection is in accordance with specific criteria. Prospective jurors may only be asked certain questions, selected for direct pertinence to impartiality or other relevant matters. Any other questions must be approved by the judge.
A jury in a criminal trial is initially composed of 12 jurors. The trial judge has the discretion to direct that one or two alternate jurors also be appointed. If a juror is discharged during the course of the trial, the trial will continue with an alternate juror, unless the number of jurors goes below 10.
The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms guarantees that anyone tried for an offence that has a maximum sentence of five or more years has the right to be tried by a jury (except for an offence under military law).
The names of jurors are protected by a publication ban. There is a specific criminal offence for disclosing anything that takes place during jury deliberations.
Juries are infrequently used in civil trials in Canada. There are no civil juries in the courts of the Province of Quebec, nor in the Federal Court.
In England and Wales jury trials are used for criminal cases, requiring 12 jurors (between the ages of 18 and 70), although the trial may continue with as few as 9. The right to a jury trial has been enshrined in English law since Magna Carta in 1215, and is most common in the serious cases, although the defendant can insist on a jury trial for most criminal matters. Jury trials have been described as expensive and time-consuming in complex fraud cases by some members and appointees of the Labour Party. In contrast, the Bar Council, Liberty and other political parties have supported the idea that trial by jury is at the heart of the judicial system and placed the blame for a few complicated jury trials failing on inadequate preparation by the prosecution. On 18 June 2009 the Lord Chief Justice, Lord Judge, sitting in the Court of Appeal, made English legal history by ruling that a criminal trial in the Crown Court could take place without a jury, under the provisions of the Criminal Justice Act 2003.
Jury trials are also available for some few areas of civil law (for example defamation cases and those involving police conduct), these also require 12 jurors (9 in the County Court), but less than one percent of civil trials involve juries. At the new Manchester Civil Justice Centre, constructed in 2008, of the 48 courtrooms, fewer than 10 had jury facilities.
Three professional judges sit alongside six jurors in first instance proceedings or nine in appeal proceedings. Before 2012, there were nine or twelve jurors, but this was reduced to cut spending. A two-thirds majority is needed in order to convict the defendant. During these procedures, judges and jurors have equal positions on questions of fact, while judges decide on questions of procedure. Judges and jurors also have equal positions on sentencing.
Trial by jury was introduced in most German states after the revolutionary events of 1848. However, it remained controversial; and, early in the 20th century, there were moves to abolish it. The Emminger Reform of January 4, 1924, during an Article 48 state of emergency, abolished the jury system and replaced it with a mixed system including bench trials and lay judges.
In 1925, the Social Democrats called for the reinstitution of the jury; a special meeting of the German Bar demanded revocation of the decrees, but "on the whole the abolition of the jury caused little commotion". Their verdicts were widely perceived as unjust and inconsistent.
Today, most misdemeanors are tried by a Strafrichter, meaning a single judge at an Amtsgericht; felonies and more severe misdemeanors are tried by a Schöffengericht, also located at the Amtsgericht, composed of 1 judge and 2 lay judges; some felonies are heard by Erweitertes Schöffengericht, or extended Schöffengericht, composed of 2 judges and 2 lay judges; severe felonies and other "special" crimes are tried by the große Strafkammer, composed of 3 judges and 2 lay judges at the Landgericht, with specially assigned courts for some crimes called Sonderstrafkammer; felonies resulting in the death of a human being are tried by the Schwurgericht, composed of 3 judges and 2 lay judges, located at the Landgericht; and serious crimes against the state are tried by the Strafsenat, composed of 5 judges, at an Oberlandesgericht.
In some civil cases, such as commercial law or patent law, there are also lay judges, who have to meet certain criteria (e.g., being a merchant).
Article 86 of the Hong Kong Basic Law assures the practice of jury trials. Criminal cases in the High Court and some civil cases are tried by jury in Hong Kong. There is no jury in the District Court. In addition, from time to time, the Coroner's Court may summon a jury to decide the cause of death in an inquest. Criminal cases are normally tried by a 7-person jury and sometimes, at the discretion of the court, a 9-person jury. Nevertheless, the Jury Ordinance requires that a jury in any proceedings should be composed of at least 5 jurors.
Although article 86 of the basic law states that ‘the principle of trial by jury previously practised in Hong Kong shall be maintained’, it does not guarantee that every case is to be tried by jury. In the case Chiang Lily v. Secretary for Justice (2010), the Court of Final Appeal agreed that ‘there is no right to trial by jury in Hong Kong.’
Juries were formerly used in India up until the famous KM Nanavati v State of Maharashtra (1959), which led to the abolition of jury trials.
In the Nanavati case, Kawas Manekshaw Nanavati was tried for the murder of his wife Sylvia's paramour, Prem Ahuja. Nanavati surrendered himself to the police after killing Ahuja. The incident shocked the nation, got unprecedented media coverage, and inspired several books and movies. The case was the last jury trial held in India. The central question of the case was whether the gun went off accidentally or whether it was a premeditated murder.
In the former scenario, Nanavati would be charged under the Indian penal code 302, for culpable homicide, with a maximum punishment of 10 years. In the latter, he would be charged with murder, with the sentence being death or life imprisonment. Nanavati pleaded not guilty. His defence team argued it was a case of culpable homicide not amounting to murder, while the prosecution argued it was premeditated murder.
The jury in the Greater Bombay sessions court pronounced Nanavati not guilty under 302 with an 8–1 verdict. The sessions judge considered the acquittal as perverse and referred the case to the high court. The prosecution argued that the jury had been misled by the presiding judge on four crucial points. One, the onus of proving that it was an accident and not premeditated murder was on Nanavati. Two, was Sylvia's confession of the grave provocation for Nanavati, or any specific incident in Ahuja's bedroom or both. Three, the judge wrongly told the jury that the provocation can also come from a third person. And four, the jury was not instructed that Nanavati's defence had to be proved, to the extent that there is no reasonable doubt in the mind of a reasonable person. The court accepted the arguments, dismissed the jury's verdict and the case was freshly heard in the high court. Since the jury was alleged to have been influenced by media and public support for Nanavati, the Indian government abolished jury trials after the case even though no comparative study was done on media influence on judges and on Jury.
Nanavati was finally pardoned by Vijayalakshmi Pandit, newly appointed Governor of Bombay and sister of Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru. Nanavati was said to be very close to Nehru.
The law of the Republic of Ireland is historically based on English common law and had a similar jury system. Article 38 of the 1937 Constitution of Ireland mandates trial by jury for criminal offences, with exceptions for minor offences, military tribunals, and where "the ordinary courts are inadequate to secure the effective administration of justice, and the preservation of public peace and order". DPP v McNally sets out that a jury has the right to reach a not guilty verdict even in direct contradiction of the evidence.
The principal statute regulating the selection, obligations and conduct of juries is the Juries Act 1976 as amended by the Civil Law (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2008. There is a fine of €500 for failing to report for jury service, though this was poorly enforced until a change of policy at the Courts Service in 2016. Criminal jury trials are held in the Circuit Court or the Central Criminal Court. Juryless trials under the inadequacy exception, dealing with terrorism or organised crime, are held in the Special Criminal Court, on application by the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP). Juries are also used in some civil law trials, such as for defamation; they are sometimes used at coroner's inquests.
Normally consisting of twelve persons, juries are selected from a jury panel which is picked at random by the county registrar from the electoral register. Juries only decide questions of fact and have no role in criminal sentencing. It is not necessary that a jury be unanimous in its verdict. In civil cases, a verdict may be reached by a majority of nine of the twelve members. In a criminal case, a verdict need not be unanimous where there are not fewer than eleven jurors if ten of them agree on a verdict after considering the case for a "reasonable time". Juries are not paid, nor do they receive travel expenses; however they do receive lunch for the days that they are serving. The Law Reform Commission examined jury service, producing a consultation paper in 2010 and then a report in 2013. One of its recommendations, to permit extra jurors for long trials in case some are excused, was enacted in 2013. In November 2013, the DPP requested a 15-member jury at the trial of three Anglo Irish Bank executives. Where more than twelve jurors are present, twelve will be chosen by lot to retire and consider the verdict.
In Italy, a Civil law jurisdiction, untrained judges are present only in the Corte d'Assise, where two career magistrates are supported by six so-called Lay Judges, who are raffled from the registrar of voters. Any Italian citizen, with no distinction of sex or religion, between 30 and 65 years of age, can be appointed as a lay judge; in order to be eligible as a lay judge for the Corte d'Assise, however, there is a minimum educational requirement, as the lay judge must have completed his/her education at the Scuola Media (junior high school) level, while said level is raised for the Corte d'Assise d'Appello (appeal level of the Corte d'Assise) to the Scuola Superiore (senior high school) degree. In the Corte d'Assise, decisions concerning both fact and law matters are taken by the stipendiary judges and "Lay Judges" together at a special meeting behind closed doors, named Camera di Consiglio ("Counsel Chamber"), and the Court is subsequently required to publish written explanations of its decisions within 90 days from the verdict. Errors of law or inconsistencies in the explanation of a decision can and usually will lead to the annulment of the decision. A Court d'Assise and a Court d' Assise d'Appello decides on a majority of votes, and therefore predominantly on the votes of the lay judges, who are a majority of six to two, but in fact lay judges, who are not trained to write such explanation and must rely on one or the other stipendiary judge to do it, are effectively prevented from overruling both of them. The Corte d'Assise has jurisdiction to try crimes carrying a maximum penalty of 24 years in prison or life imprisonment, and other serious crimes; felonies that fall under its jurisdiction include terrorism, murder, manslaughter, severe attempts against State personalities, as well as some matters of law requiring ethical and professional evaluations (ex. assisted suicide), while it generally has no jurisdiction over cases whose evaluation requires knowledge of Law which the "Lay Judges" generally don't have. Penalties imposed by the court can include life sentences.
Juries are used in trials for all trials involving Category 4 offences such as treason, murder and manslaughter, although in exceptional circumstances a judge-alone trial may be ordered. At the option of the defendant, juries may be used in trials involving Category 3 offences, that is offences where the maximum penalty available is two years imprisonment or greater. In civil cases juries are usually only used in cases of defamation. Juries must initially try to reach a unanimous verdict, but if one cannot be reached in a reasonable timeframe, the judge may accept a majority verdict of all-but-one (i.e. 11–1 or 10–1) in criminal cases and three-quarters (i.e. 9–3 or 9–2) in civil cases.
During the Troubles in Northern Ireland, jury trials were suspended and trials took place before Diplock Courts. These were essentially trials before judges only. This was to combat the intimidation of juries.
Juries existed in Norway as early as the year 800, and perhaps even earlier. They brought the jury system to England and Scotland. Juries were phased out as late as the 17th century, when Norway´s central government was in Copenhagen, Denmark. Though Norway and Denmark had different legal systems throughout their personal union (1387-1536), and later under the governmental union (1536-1814), there was attempt to harmonize the legal systems of the two countries. Even if juries were abolished, the layman continued to play an important role in the legal system throughout in Norway.
The jury was reintroduced in 1887, and is solely used in criminal cases on the second tier of the three-tier Norwegian court system ("Lagmannsretten"). The jury consists of 10 people, and has to reach a majority verdict consisting of seven or more of the jurors. The jury never gives a reason for its verdict, rather it simply gives a "guilty" or "non-guilty" verdict.
In a sense, the concept of being judged by one's peers exists on both the first and second tier of the Norwegian court system: In Tingretten, one judge and two lay judges preside, and in Lagmannsretten three judges and four lay judges preside (if a jury is not used). The lay judges do not hold any legal qualification, and represent the peers of the person on trial, as members of the general public. As a guarantee against any abuse of power by the educated elite, the number of lay judges always exceeds the number of appointed judges. In the Supreme Court, only trained lawyers are seated.
Scottish trials are based on an adversarial approach. First the prosecution leads evidence from witnesses and after each witness the defence has an opportunity to cross examine. Following the Prosecution case, the defence may move a motion of no case to answer if the worst the prosecution has been able to lead in evidence would be insufficient to convict of any crime. If there remains a case to answer, the defence leads evidence from witnesses in an attempt to refute previous evidence led by the prosecution, with cross examination being permitted after each witness. Once both prosecution and defence have concluded leading evidence, the case goes to summing up where firstly the prosecution and then the defence get to sum up their case based on the evidence that has been heard. The jury is given guidance on points of law and then sent out to consider its verdict. Juries are composed of fifteen residents.
Spain had no established tradition of using juries in trials, but the Constitution of 1978, legislates the right to a trial by jury, called "popular jury" as opposed to a "magistrates jury". The provision is arguably somewhat vague: "Section 125 - Citizens may engage in popular action and take part in the administration of justice through the institution of the jury, in the manner and with respect to those criminal trials as may be determined by law, as well as in customary and traditional courts."
Jury trials have been very slowly introduced in Spain and have often produced less than desirable results. One of the first cases was that of Mikel Otegi who was tried in 1997 for the murder of two police officers. After a confused trial, five jury members of a total of nine voted to acquit and the judge ordered the accused set free. This verdict shocked the nation. Another alleged miscarriage of justice by jury trial was the Wanninkhof murder case.
In press libel cases and other cases concerning offenses against freedom of the press, the question of whether or not the printed material falls outside permissible limits is submitted to a jury of 9 members which provides a pre-screening before the case is ruled on by normal courts. In these cases 6 out of 9 jurors must find against the defendant, and may not be overruled in cases of acquittal.
Sweden has no tradition of using juries in most types of criminal or civil trial. The sole exception, since 1815, is in cases involving freedom of the press, prosecuted under Chapter 7 of the Freedom of the Press Act, part of Sweden's constitution. The most frequently prosecuted offence under this act is defamation, although in total eighteen offences, including high treason and espionage, are covered. These cases are tried in district courts (first tier courts) by a jury of nine laymen.
The jury in press freedom cases rules only on the facts of the case and the question of guilt or innocence. The trial judge may overrule a jury's guilty verdict, but may not overrule an acquittal. A conviction requires a majority verdict of 6-3. Sentencing is the sole prerogative of judges.
Jury members must be Swedish citizens and resident in the county in which the case is being heard. They must be of sound judgement and known for their independence and integrity. Combined, they should represent a range of social groups and opinions, as well as all parts of the county. It is the county council that have the responsibility to appoints juries for a tenure of four years under which they may serve in multiple cases. The appointed jurymen are divided into two groups, in most counties the first with sixteen members and the second with eight. From this pool of available jurymen the court hears and excludes those with conflicts of interest in the case, after which the defendants and plaintiffs have the right to exclude a number of members, varying by county and group. The final jury is then randomly selected by drawing of lots.
Juries are not used in other criminal and civil cases. For most other cases in the first and second tier courts lay judges sit alongside professional judges. Lay judges participate in deciding both the facts of the case and sentencing. Lay judges are appointed by local authorities, or in practice by the political parties represented on the authorities. Lay judges are therefore usually selected from among nominees of ruling political parties.
In criminal law in federal courts and a minority of state court systems of the United States, a grand jury is convened to hear only testimony and evidence to determine whether there is a sufficient basis for deciding to indict the defendant and proceed toward trial. In each court district where a grand jury is required, a group of 16–23 citizens holds an inquiry on criminal complaints brought by the prosecutor to decide whether a trial is warranted (based on the standard that probable cause exists that a crime was committed), in which case an indictment is issued. In jurisdictions where the size of a jury varies, in general the size of juries tends to be larger if the crime alleged is more serious. If a grand jury rejects a proposed indictment the grand jury's action is known as a "no bill." If they accept a proposed indictment, the grand jury's action is known as a "true bill." Grand jury proceedings are ex parte: only the prosecutor and witnesses who the prosecutor calls may present evidence to the grand jury and defendants are not allowed to present mitigating evidence or even to know the testimony that was presented to the grand jury, and hearsay evidence is permitted. This is so because a grand jury cannot convict a defendant. It can only decide to indict the defendant and proceed forward toward trial. Grand juries vote to indict in the overwhelming majority of cases, and prosecutors are not prohibited from presenting the same case to a new grand jury if a "no bill" was returned by a previous grand jury. A typical grand jury considers a new criminal case every fifteen minutes. In some jurisdictions, in addition to indicting persons for crimes, a grand jury may also issue reports on matters that they investigate apart from the criminal indictments, particularly when the grand jury investigation involves a public scandal. Historically, grand juries were sometimes used in American law to serve a purpose similar to an investigatory commission.
Both Article III of the U.S. Constitution and the Sixth Amendment require that criminal cases be tried by a jury. Originally this applied only to federal courts. However, the Fourteenth Amendment extended this mandate to the states. Although the Constitution originally did not require a jury for civil cases, this led to an uproar which was followed by adoption of the Seventh Amendment, which requires a civil jury in cases where the value in dispute is greater than twenty dollars. However, the Seventh Amendment right to a civil jury trial does not apply in state courts, where the right to a jury is strictly a matter of state law. However, in practice, all states except Louisiana preserve the right to a jury trial in almost all civil cases where the sole remedy sought is money damages to the same extent as jury trials are permitted by the Seventh Amendment. Under the law of many states, jury trials are not allowed in small claims cases. The civil jury in the United States is a defining element of the process by which personal injury trials are handled.
In practice, even though the defendant in a criminal action is entitled to a trial by jury, most criminal actions in the U.S. are resolved by plea bargain. Only about 2% of civil cases go to trial, with only about half of those trials being conducted before juries.
In 1898 the Supreme Court held that the jury must be composed of at least twelve persons, although this was not necessarily extended to state civil jury trials. In 1970, however, the Supreme Court held that the twelve person requirement was a "historical accident", and upheld six-person juries if provided for under state law in both criminal and civil state court cases. There is controversy over smaller juries, with proponents arguing that they are more efficient and opponents arguing that they lead to fluctuating verdicts. In a later case, however, the court rejected the use of five-person juries in criminal cases. Juries go through a selection process called voir dire in which the lawyers question the jurors and then make "challenges for cause" and "peremptory challenges" to remove jurors. Traditionally the removal of jurors based on a peremptory challenge required no justification or explanation, but the tradition has been changed by the Supreme Court where the reason for the peremptory challenge was the race of the potential juror. Since the 1970s "scientific jury selection" has become popular.
Unanimous jury verdicts have been standard in US American law. This requirement was upheld by the Supreme Court in 1897, but the standard was relaxed in 1972 in two criminal cases. As of 1999 over thirty states had laws allowing less than unanimity in civil cases, but Oregon and Louisiana are the only states which have laws allowing less than unanimous jury verdicts for criminal cases. When the required number of jurors cannot agree on a verdict (a situation sometimes referred to as a hung jury), a mistrial is declared, and the case may be retried with a newly constituted jury. The practice generally was that the jury rules only on questions of fact and guilt; setting the penalty was reserved for the judge. This practice was confirmed by rulings of the U.S. Supreme Court such as in Ring v. Arizona, which found Arizona's practice of having the judge decide whether aggravating factors exist to make a defendant eligible for the death penalty, to be unconstitutional, and reserving the determination of whether the aggravating factors exist to be decided by the jury. However, in some states (such as Alabama and Florida), the ultimate decision on the punishment is made by the judge, and the jury gives only a non-binding recommendation. The judge can impose the death penalty even if the jury recommends life without parole.
There is no set format for jury deliberations, and the jury takes a period of time to settle into discussing the evidence and deciding on guilt and any other facts the judge instructs them to determine. Deliberation is done by the jury only, with none of the lawyers, the judge, or the defendant present. The first step will typically be to find out the initial feeling or reaction of the jurors to the case, which may be by a show of hands, or via secret ballot. The jury will then attempt to arrive at a consensus verdict. The discussion usually helps to identify jurors' views to see whether a consensus will emerge as well as areas that bear further discussion. Points often arise that were not specifically discussed during the trial. The result of these discussions is that in most cases the jury comes to a unanimous decision and a verdict is thus achieved. In some states and under circumstances, the decision need not be unanimous.
In a few states and in death penalty cases, depending upon the law, the trial jury, or sometimes a separate jury, may determine whether the death penalty is appropriate in "capital" murder cases. Usually, sentencing is handled by the judge at a separate hearing. The judge may but does not always follow the recommendations of the jury when deciding on a sentence.
When used alone the term jury usually refers to a petit jury, rather than a grand jury.
Jurors are selected from a jury pool formed for a specified period of time—usually from one day to two weeks—from lists of citizens living in the jurisdiction of the court. The lists may be electoral rolls (i.e., a list of registered voters in the locale), people who have driver's licenses or other relevant data bases. When selected, being a member of a jury pool is, in principle, compulsory. Prospective jurors are sent a summons and are obligated to appear in a specified jury pool room on a specified date.
However, jurors can be released from the pool for several reasons including illness, prior commitments that can't be abandoned without hardship, change of address to outside the court's jurisdiction, travel or employment outside the jurisdiction at the time of duty, and others. Often jurisdictions pay token amounts for jury duty and many issue stipends to cover transportation expenses for jurors. Work places cannot penalize employees who serve jury duty. Payments to jurors varies by jurisdiction.
In the United States jurors for grand juries are selected from jury pools.
Selection of jurors from a jury pool occurs when a trial is announced and juror names are randomly selected and called out by the jury pool clerk. Depending on the type of trial—whether a 6-person or 12 person jury is needed, in the United States—anywhere from 15 to 30 prospective jurors are sent to the courtroom to participate in voir dire, pronounced [vwaʁ diʁ] in French, and defined as the oath to speak the truth in the examination testing competence of a juror, or in another application, a witness. Once the list of prospective jurors has assembled in the courtroom the court clerk assigns them seats in the order their names were originally drawn. At this point the judge often will ask each prospective juror to answer a list of general questions such as name, occupation, education, family relationships, time conflicts for the anticipated length of the trial. The list is usually written up and clearly visible to assist nervous prospective jurors and may include several questions uniquely pertinent to the particular trial. These questions are to familiarize the judge and attorneys with the jurors and glean biases, experiences, or relationships that could jeopardize the proper course of the trial.
After each prospective juror has answered the general slate of questions the attorneys may ask follow-up questions of some or all prospective jurors. Each side in the trial is allotted a certain number of challenges to remove prospective jurors from consideration. Some challenges are issued during voir dire while others are presented to the judge at the end of voir dire. The judge calls out the names of the anonymously challenged prospective jurors and those return to the pool for consideration in other trials. A jury is formed, then, of the remaining prospective jurors in the order that their names were originally chosen. Any prospective jurors not thus impaneled return to the jury pool room.
Scholarly research on jury behavior in American non-capital criminal felony trials reveals that juror outcomes appear to track the opinions of the median juror, rather than the opinions of the extreme juror on the panel, although juries were required to render unanimous verdicts in the jurisdictions studied. Thus, although juries must render unanimous verdicts, in run-of-the-mill criminal trials they behave in practice as if they were operating using a majority rules voting system.
As much of the research on social conformity suggests, individuals tend to lose their sense of individuality when faced with powerful group forces (i.e., normative influence; informational influence; interpersonal influence). This seemingly stark realization raises the question: Is the effectiveness of jury decision-making compromised by individuals’ tendencies to conform to the normative transmissions of a group?
Since a clear archetype for determining guilt does not exist, the criminal justice system must rely on rulings handed down by juries. Even after a decision has been made, it is virtually impossible to know whether a jury has been correct or incorrect in freeing or accusing a defendant of a crime. Although establishing the effectiveness of juries is an arduous task, contemporary research has provided partial support for the proficiency of juries as decision makers.
Evidence has shown that jurors typically take their roles very seriously. According to Simon (1980), jurors approach their responsibilities as decision makers much in the same way as a court judge – with great seriousness, a lawful mind, and a concern for consistency that is evidence-based. By actively processing evidence, making inferences, using common sense and personal experiences to inform their decision-making, research has indicated that jurors are effective decision makers that seek thorough understanding, rather than passive, apathetic participants unfit to serve on a jury.
Evidence supporting jury effectiveness has also been illustrated in studies that investigate the parallels between judge and jury decision-making. According to Kalven and Zeisel (1966), it is not uncommon to find that the verdicts passed down by juries following a trial match the verdicts held by the appointed judges. Upon surveying judges and jurors of approximately 8000 criminal and civil trials, it was discovered that the verdicts handed down by both parties were in agreement 80% of the time.
Jurors, like most individuals, are not free from holding social and cognitive biases. Oftentimes people negatively judge individuals who do not adhere to established social norms (e.g., individuals who dress "freakishly") or do not meet societal standards of success. Although these biases tend to influence jurors’ individual decisions during a trial, while working as part of a group (i.e., jury), these biases are typically controlled. Groups tend to exert buffering effects that allow jurors to disregard their initial personal biases when forming a credible group decision.