The Jury and Democracy: How Jury Deliberation Promotes Civic Engagement and Political Participation

By John Gastil; E. Pierre Deess et al. | Go to book overview

Chapter 8
Securing the Jury

We began this book with an appreciation of a juror who was stranded on Boston’s Southeast Expressway. Federal Judge William G. Young told that juror’s story to a gathering of the Florida Bar Association in 2007 not to praise the jury but to forestall its burial. “The American jury system,” he said, “is dying…. It will never go entirely, but it is already marginalized…. How is this possible, with our Constitution and every one of the 50 state constitutions guaranteeing the right to trial by jury? The general answer is that we do not care.”1

The raw numbers support his view. Despite the popular perception of an ever-more litigious society, the total number of cases in federal and state courts has declined in recent decades. The proportion of cases that go to a jury trial, however, has declined even more rapidly. In federal courts, the percentage of criminal charges that end in jury verdicts dropped from 10.4 percent in 1988 to 4.3 percent in 2000, and the percentage of civil cases resolved by juries declined from 5.4 percent in 1962 to 1.5 percent in 2000.2 In state courts, where the majority of juries become empanelled, the rate of decline is even steeper. In 1976, criminal juries resolved 3.4 percent of cases, but now they only account for 1.3 percent (35,664 cases). Over the same period, the rate at which civil juries accounted for case dispositions dropped from 1.8 percent to 0.6 percent (17,617 cases). Simply put, there are roughly one-third as many jury trials per year as there were in 1976.3

Judge Young’s concern about the declining jury reflects anxiety about the independence of the judicial branch, the vitality of the constitution, and the rendering of justice for all citizens who might come before the court. Though there are signs of vitality in the jury,4 many countries have scaled back or eliminated juries over the past century, and in the United States, recent legal reforms already have reduced the size and frequency of jury

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The Jury and Democracy: How Jury Deliberation Promotes Civic Engagement and Political Participation
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Acknowledgments vii
  • Contents xi
  • Figures xiii
  • Tables xv
  • Photos xix
  • Chapter 1 - Freedom in Our Hands 3
  • Chapter 2 - Between State and Society 12
  • Chapter 3 - From Jury Box to Ballot Box 26
  • Chapter 4 - Answering the Summons 52
  • Chapter 5 - Citizen Judges 73
  • Chapter 6 - From Courthouse to Community 106
  • Chapter 7 - Civic Attitude Adjustment 129
  • Chapter 8 - Securing the Jury 154
  • Chapter 9 - Political Society and Deliberative Democracy 173
  • Further Reading 193
  • Methodological Appendix 195
  • Notes 215
  • References 241
  • About the Authors 259
  • Index 261
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