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DEFINITION OF THE JURY SYSTEM
The jury system consists of twelve people who sit in criminal and civil events to make decisions on matters of facts. In England there is an approximate 800 year history of the jury system. When the jury system was developed in England those times were called the dark ages and the jury were then required to investigate cases themselves. Previously it was expected that there must be a unanimous verdict of guilty or not guilty. It had changed to allow a verdict of 10-2 majority if the jury fails to agree after a given period, the judge at his or her discretion may allow such a verdict.
The jury is called to serve when a defendant is a case pleads not guilty. If the plea was guilty the judge will then deal with sentencing the defendant. This service is considered to be an important civic or public duty, it is expected that the jury comes with an open mind instead of making a verdict out of their knowledge of the events. Individual members of the public are chosen at random to offer service. The jury service is ruled by the Juries Act 1974 and the Criminal Justice Act 2003. In trials by jury, the jury decides on factual questions and the judge decides on law questions.
THE FUNCTIONS OF THE JURY SYSTEM
The jury must decide upon facts to determine someone’s guilt or non guilt.
Listen to disputes and take notes on evidence and facts presented to assist in making a decision.
Jurors add certainty to the law, that is the jury merely states that the accused is guilty or not guilty and does not give a reason. There is no disputing the decision.
The jury is capable of providing social and psychological inputs where the rigidity and objectivity of the law cannot.
To be impartial and independent.
To be uninfluenced by any person as seen in Bushell’s Case (1670).
JURIES ACT 1974 – QUALIFICATION FOR JURY SERVICE
The Juries Act 1974 states that the qualifications for the jury service are that the person must be on the electoral registrar, he or she must be between 18-70 years of age and must be residing in the United Kingdom, the Channel Island, or the Isle of Mann for at least five years since attaining the age of 13 years.
THE CRIMINAL JUSTICE ACT 2003 – INELIGIBILITY OF JURY SERVICE
The Criminal Justice Act 2003 amended the 1974 Jury Act by abolishing certain categories of ineligibility. Prior to the Act a number of people were deemed ineligible to serve on the jury based on their employment. This included judges, clergy, police, and probation officers, members of the legal profession, parliament members, religious leaders and mentally disordered persons. Re Tourman Osman (Practice Note) (1995) Verney J.
ADVANTAGES OF THE JURY SYSTEM
Jury will provide a sympathetic hearing (a fairer one). The jury has no previous knowledge of case and can give an unbiased decision.
Apply common values, meaning what is “honest" or “dishonest".
When there is a “rouge" juror majority verdicts allow justice. This eliminates any juror having bias tendency or bring their personal feeling into the trial.
A jury trial can be elected by the defendants, indicating that he or she has the opportunity to a faire and just trial.
Retrial is available in cases that are tainted (nobbling) Section 54 Criminal Procedure and Investigation Act 1996.
Efficient System, success with 800 years.
DISADVANTAGES OF THE JURY SYSTEM
Judge has to explain legal matters. The jury is not qualified in the area of law and may not understand the terms used. It has been argued that jury is not smart enough to handle fact finding in cases such as fraud and embezzlement and they do not have sufficient experience to deal with complex cases where evidence requires analytical skills. Aitken v Preston (1997) CA.
Majority verdict can convict when there is doubt which should have been given to the defendant.
There is frequent jury nobbling, resulting in wrongful acquittals.
There are no enquiries into jurors deliberations after verdict, a juror may be swayed by racial consideration or other biases. Jury Act 1974 Section 18 provides no judgement after a verdict should be reversed by reason, amongst other things, that juror was unqualified or unfit to serve. In R v Chapman (1976) 63Cr.App R 75 and Gregory v United Kingdom (1997)ECHR.
Some cases are emotional cases and jury may be tempted to bring a guilty verdict based on personal feelings rather than a verdict beyond a reasonable doubt.
THE CROWN COURT, HIGH COURT, CIVIL, COUNTY COURT AND CORONER JURIES
Only about one percent of cases is the civil jury used, they usually sit on trial of defamation (libel, slander, malicious prosecution, false imprisonment and breach of promise or marriage).This type of trial is taken to the high court or a counties court. In a civil case or coroner’s case a juror will play a similar role to that of a juror in a criminal case.
Crown Court: Jurors try criminal cases but they do not sentence and are the sole judge of facts.
High Court: Jurors hear cases of defamation, they also decide on the facts and any amount of damages to be awarded.
Civil Jury Trials: County Courts Act 1984, section 66 for false imprisonment or malicious prosecution. Discretion is used to allow jury trial in other actions but there is reluctance to do so. Racz v Home Office (1994).
County Court: Jurors are called upon in cases against the state example in cases of suing the police (false imprisonment).
Coroner Court: An inquest is usually called a coroners’ hearing, here jurors sit on trial where someone died suddenly, where the cause is unknown, has dies violently, died in prison or where circumstance of death requires an inquest Section 8 Coroners Act 1988.
FACTORS AND THEORY OF JUROR BIAS
There have been studies that have indicted some of the effects while deliberating that a biased juror may have on other jurors. Some of the factors include case relevant attitudes, case relevant life experiences, personality traits, general values and beliefs and demographics.
The law views bias as preconceived opinion to decide a cause or an issue in a certain way. A juror bias Gough, Rv (1993) HL cannot be touted a universal phenomenon. The strength of the evidence is taken into account if it is examined from case to case. Bias would most likely to occur where the evidence presented to the jurors is ambitious.
INFLUENCES OF THE JURY’S VERDICT
In a multiracial society racial conflict has been identified as an issue. Jurors may be swayed based on the physical appearance of the accused; this has been suggested by studies in interpersonal relationship.
The “objective evidence" produced at the trial and other legally related criteria given by the judge would “complete disadvantageously" with these other sources of persuasion in influencing the jury’s verdict.
The jury trial is a process persuasion where fixed mental limits, emotional block, social biases internal dispositions and ignorance serves as bases for juror decision making.
There have been studies examining why jurors have made a judgement of guilty, there have been few however that have made efforts to understand factors that cause a judgement of not guilty by reason of insanity (NGRI) judgements (Finkel and Handel, 1988, 1989; McGlynn and Dreilinger, 1981; Ogloff, 1991a). Where there is a trial of insanity it may be difficult for jurors to make on judgement on whether the accused was insane at the time the offence took place.
A trail involves the public as jurors and since it allows them to behave as the public should, the trial by jury eventually assumes a rationally wider and different from what the law or the courts strictly define for themselves.
Creating jury prejudice:
Whether or not the pro trail publicity actually caused bias.
Whether or not the bias occupies the minds of prospective juror at the trial.
Whether or not such jurors could properly make a psychological adjustment necessary to ensure their impartiality and hence a fair trial.
In conclusion it was said that the jury is the foundation of their free constitution, take that away and the whole fabric will molder into dust. These were the words spoken by Lord Camden. Even though there are shortcomings of the jury it is important that they be retained as a means of administering public justice. It is argued that judges give harsh sentences and the juror being an ordinary person is more inclined to have a open mind and their verdict is generally accepted by the public. An Act has never been passed by parliament to abolish the jury system. Researches have satisfied the objective of access to justice by the support of the public and persons in the legal system. (1490 word count)
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