jury | Definition

Doc's CJ Glossary by Adam J. McKee
Course: Introduction

A jury is a group of people selected to hear the evidence in a trial and render a verdict on matters of fact.

See also, grand jury

In the realm of criminal justice, a jury plays a critical role. Its main function is to listen to evidence presented in a trial and decide if a person accused of a crime is guilty or not. In most cases, a they comprises twelve people. However, in some instances, it could have fewer members. After all, it’s essential that the size does not prevent it from making a fair and just decision.

Selection of a Jury

So, how does one become part of a jury? The process, known as “jury selection,” starts by summoning random citizens to court. It ensures that the panel is made up of diverse individuals, a true representation of the community. Both the defense and prosecution teams get a chance to question these potential jurors. Above all, they want to make sure no juror is biased or has a connection with the case or people involved.

The Role of a Jury

In a courtroom, they serve as the finders of facts. They listen attentively to witnesses, examine evidence, and observe the behavior of those in the courtroom. Afterward, they discuss everything they’ve learned in a process called “deliberation.” Both the testimony of witnesses and physical evidence, like documents or objects, play a part in shaping their opinion.

Making Decisions as a Jury

It’s important to note that the members must agree on their verdict. If they all agree, it’s called a “unanimous” verdict. If they can’t agree after a long period of discussion, it’s known as a “hung” jury. A hung jury often leads to a retrial with a new jury.

In making their decision, jurors apply the law as explained by the judge to the facts they have decided are true. They must determine whether the evidence proves “beyond a reasonable doubt” that the accused is guilty. This high standard of proof is fundamental in criminal cases to ensure that innocent people aren’t wrongly convicted.

The Importance of a Jury

All things considered, a jury is crucial to the criminal justice system. Its main job is to protect individuals against unfair laws and government power. Whether a person is guilty or not, they have a right to a fair trial. This right is maintained by the impartial judgment of a jury.

Ultimately, a jury bridges the gap between the law and the community. Its members bring their diverse backgrounds and perspectives to the decision-making process, which helps maintain fairness and justice in society. A trial by jury is one of the hallmarks of a democratic society, ensuring that the power to judge and enforce the law lies not only with the legal professionals but also with the people.

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Last Modified: 06/12/2023

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