Judging the Jury

Judging the Jury

Judging the Jury

Judging the Jury

Synopsis

This volume is a report on the historical, legal, and political aspects of the jury system as it operates in America. The authors combine accounts of jury trials and case law with the latest findings from the social sciences.

Excerpt

The merits of the jury system have been the subject of dispute for a very long time. When The American Jury appeared some 20 years ago, it did not resolve the dispute but it did advance it to new ground. the debate moved from generalities to specific, often testable issues.

The research tradition it initiated has proved to be of help to the courts. There is hardly an opinion involving jury law that does not cite empirical research findings. Perhaps the most far-reaching, if for the time being modest, effect of that tradition has been the growing awareness of the law that social science research can frequently contribute to the resolution of legal and legislative problems.

Judging the Jury has assembled and critically analyzed the old and new knowledge we have of the jury. and although one will not necessarily agree with all of the author's evaluations, by weaving the research findings into the lively narratives of actual jury trials, they have written an attractive and important book.

It is fitting that it was written by an American and a Canadian scholar; the British commonwealth and the United States are the only realms in which the jury forms an important part of the judicial system. and it is fitting that one of the authors is a lawyer and the other a behavioral scientist; the integration of these skills is now finding a home in a great many of law schools.

The jury is undergoing two major changes. One change, the democratic broadening of the reservoir from which jurors are recruited, was highly beneficial. the other change, the manifold reductions of the jury's size has not been helpful.

The states are now allowed to try criminal cases before a six member jury. the civil jury in our federal courts was reduced from 12 to 6 jurors, and in some of our largest states, 5 jurors out of 6 can now find a verdict. Lifting the unanimity requirement has been another form of reducing the jury's size.

The price of these economies is lesser representation of the community, and a greater likelihood of a wrong verdict, because the collective wisdom of the 6 jurors is less than that of 12. When this self-inflicted emasculation . . .

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