petit jury | Definition

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

A petit jury in criminal justice is a group of 6-12 impartial citizens who determine the guilt or innocence of a defendant in a trial.

A petit jury is a group of citizens who are selected to hear evidence presented in a criminal trial and determine the guilt or innocence of the defendant. These are also known as trial juries, and they typically consist of 6 to 12 people, depending on the jurisdiction and the type of case being tried.

Purpose of the Petit Jury

The purpose of a petit jury is to provide an impartial group of individuals who can assess the evidence presented in a trial and make a fair and just decision based on that evidence. Juries are chosen from a pool of eligible citizens who have been summoned for jury duty. They are typically selected through a process called voir dire, in which the prosecution and defense attorneys question prospective jurors to determine their ability to be fair and impartial in the case.

What the Petit Jury Does

Once selected, jurors are responsible for listening to the evidence presented by both sides in the trial and then deliberating to reach a verdict. The verdict must be reached by a unanimous decision unless the jury cannot reach a unanimous decision, in which case a mistrial may be declared, and the case may be retried with a new jury.

Petit Jury vs. Grand Jury

This type of jury should not be confused with a grand jury. While both are composed of citizens, their roles in the criminal justice system are different. After all, a grand jury does not determine guilt or innocence. Instead, it decides whether there is enough evidence for a case to go to trial. On the other hand, the petit jury is the one that makes the final decision on a defendant’s guilt or innocence in a trial.

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Last Modified: 07/13/2023

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