A trial by jury or jury trial is a legal process in which a jury either makes findings or decision of fact which are then applied by a judge. It is distinguished from a bench trial, whereby a group of judges or a judge make all the verdicts. The jury trials are utilized in a substantial share of grave criminal cases in all common law legal methods and lay judges or juries have be incorporated into legal systems of many civil law nations for criminal cases. Only the Canada and the U.S. make practical application of trials in a wide diversity of non-criminal cases. Most common law legal jurisdictions utilize the jury trials only in less class of cases that make up a few share of the civil docket, whereas real jury trials are just nearly lacking elsewhere world-wide. Few civil law jurisdictions have arbitration panels with non-legally trained members come to a decision of cases in first-rate subject matter areas significant to the arbitration board members’ areas of proficiency (Brill, pg 98).The accessibility of a trial by jury in American jurisdiction more often than not rely on the accessibility of a jury trial in a particular kind of a case under the common law at the time of the Revolutionary War which did not permit jury trials in its courts of equity but allowed the jury trial to be conducted in its courts of law. In spite of the fact that jury trials are no longer accessible in most of the cases under the contemporary English law, the U.S still uses the system. Jury trials are accessible in the American civil cases in many cases requesting to be paid damages on a contract law or tort law but are sometimes not accessible when non-monetary damages such as declaratory reprieve or an injunction relief is sought. In this kind of cases, it is the duty of the court to coach the jury as to the law while it is the duty of the jury to pursue strictly the law as it is laid down by the court (Jeffery, Pg 79).
The application of the jury trials advanced within common law schemes and not the civil law methods and have a philosophical force on the nature of the U.S. criminal procedure and civil procedure rules even in cases where a bench trial is in fact considered has given rise to a scheme where fact finding is concerted in a single trial instead of numerous bearings, and where the appellate appraisal of trial court decisions is significantly restricted. The jury trials are less significant in nations that do not have access to common law method (Jeffrey, pg 85).
The Magna Carta of 1215 first started the trial by jury by affirming that “for any trivial offence, any liberated man shall be fined in percentage only to the degree of the offence and for a serious offence subsequently, but not so greatly as to deprive him of his occupation. At the same time, a husbandman shall be spared the implements of his husbandly and a merchant his merchandise, when they fall upon the mercy of a royal court. However, none of the fines shall be imposed with the exception of evaluation on oath of men with good reputation of the neighborhood. Barons and earls shall be fined merely by their equals and according to the seriousness of the offence. And to any man whom we have dispossessed or deprived of rights, liberties, castles or lands without the lawful judgment of his equals, we will restore these.” In the U.S the unbiased jury of freeholders of the vicinage, with the obligatory agreement for conviction of other familiarized requisites and in all crimes punishable with loss of member or life, indictment or presentment by a grand jury shall be an fundamental preliminary, provided that in cases of crimes committed within any nation which might be in control of an enemy, or which a common insurrection might triumph, the trial might by law be sanctioned in some other county of the U.S. (Jeffrey, pg 34).
The American jury method is on an exorable path of advancement where the system is over time but albeit slowly, is becoming more and more inclusive of groups that were previously discriminated against and there is such an optimistic outlook though misplaced, given that the continuing persistence of inequalities in the criminal justice and the jury system is more broadly pronounced (Graham, pg 89).
The role of jury trials
In the majority of common law jurisdictions, the jury is accountable for seeking to find the facts of the case they are handling, whereas the judge makes a decision about the law. The peers of the person accused are accountable for paying attention to a dispute, deciding on the facts, evaluating the evidence offered and making a decision in agreement with the rules of jury instructions and the law. Characteristically, the jury just gives a verdict of not guilty or guilty, but the real judgment is announced by the judge. A fascinating novelty was commenced in Russia in the judicial reorganization of Alexander II; unlike in contemporary jury trials where the jurors decide not only whether the defendant was not guilty or guilty, but they had the third option, which was, ‘guilty but should not be punished,’ because Alexander II assumed that morality without justice is wrong. However, a few jurisdictions with jury trials let the defendant to waive their rights to a jury trial and thus this leads to a bench trial. But jury trials tend to happen really when a crime is considered severe, and in a number of jurisdictions especially in Brazil and France, the jury trials are compulsory and reserved for the harshest crimes and are accessible for civil cases (Graham, pg 79). For instance in Brazil, the trials by jury are functional in cases of voluntary against life, such as second-degree and first murders, instigation of suicide and forced abortion, even if they were just attempted. But in some countries such as the United Kingdom, the jury trials are only accessible for criminal cases and very exception civil cases, such as false imprisonment, civil fraud, malicious prosecution and defamation. In the U.S. the jury trials are accessible in both civil and criminal cases, but in Canada, any particular person charged with an indictable offence might choose to be tried by a judge alone in a provincial court, by judge alone and July in a superior court, and by judge alone in a superior court because summary offences are not be tried by the jury. In the U.S. the general public tends to overrate the rate of recurrence of the jury trials because jury trials are inclined to be high profile. Just about 150,000 jury trials are performed in state courts in the United States while a further 5,000 jury trials are accomplished in federal courts. Two-thirds of the jury trials are criminal cases, whilst one-third are civil and other cases such as traffic, municipal ordinance and family. However, the immense majority of cases are as a matter of fact resolved by plea bargaining which removes the requirement for a jury trial (Graham, pg 78).
A few commentators argue out that the guilty-plea bargaining method as being unfair because it kind of coerces defendants into surrendering their rights to a jury trial, while some aver that there never was a golden age of jury trials, but somewhat that juries in the early nineteenth century before the advent of the plea bargaining were reflective and unwitting and more often than not was just wasteful of public resources. But because of the absence of trained professionals, the guilty-plea method that materialized in the second half of the nineteenth century was better, more cost efficient scheme of achieving fair results. In nations where jury trials are common, juries are frequently perceived as a significant check against state power. But some regular affirmations about the benefits of trial by the jury is that it gives a means of interpolating community values and norms into judicial procedures and that it legitimizes the law by giving chances for citizens to authenticate criminal statutes in their submission to definite trials. It is the guidelines of the U.S. that all litigants in Federal courts permitted to trial by jury should have the right to petit and grand juries chosen at random from a fair part of the society in the division o Brillr district where the court has jurisdiction (Jeffrey, pg 99).
Many Americans accept as true that a jury is likely to give a more compassionate hearing or even a more fairer one to a party who is not part of the administration or other organization interest than would legislative body of a state. But most Americans question why the burden of prove on the state is so heavy. The reason is simply that in order to protect the right of citizens from the power of the state which has tremendous power as the state organization. By selecting and using the jury trials, this deed puts to rest the matter of whether the accused person will get fair treatment. If for instance the accused person is judged by a single judge, there are chances that the accused can decide to give a bribe so as the case will be judged according to his wish. But when the juries are there in the presence of the court, the hearings can be expected to be fair and the sentencing will be fair and made according to the matters of fact that were determined by the members of the jury. At the same time, whether openly hidden displayed, nullification remains a timeless strategy for jurors seeking to bring law into line with their own conscience. This reconciliation is what the jury is all about for better or worse. The American Jurors System has been working well and it needs not to be changed with the malpractice courts (Jeffrey, pg 95).
There has been a proposal by one Kristin Eliasberg to use special malpractice courts to replace jury trials. I do not believe that the American Courts System should not allow malpractice courts as they cannot in any way solve some of the problems of juries who sometimes have to be involved in determining complex cases. The American Courts System has been working well since the Revolution War and from the perspective of an accused person, malpractice is not an issue within the Jurors and Courts of American System and the two court departments have worked very well for a long time. The reasons for this is that the American people have used the jury trial system for a very long time and it would be naïve to try and dismantle what the American people acknowledge as their democratic rights. There are no cases that are taken to American court that do accommodate the jurors (Graham, pg 87).
The evolution of the American jury trial has become a landmark and a system that many countries in African have borrowed. It is a very good system because the accused person can rest assured that even as his attorney id defending him, he also has other silent listeners who might help in making his release possible by deciding that he is not guilt. The other good thing about the jurors is the fact that no one except the prosecutor really knows where they will be staying in isolation as the case goes on until after its legal conclusion (Graham, pg 98).
Jeffrey Abrahams. We, the Jury. The Jury System and the Ideal Democracy, Harvard University Press, (2003).
Brill, Steven. Trial by Jury, New York: American Lawyer Books/Touchstone, (1989).
D. Graham Burnett A Trial By Jury, (Vintage Books, A Division of Random House, Inc.)