What is the Role of a Jury?

What is the role of a jury from North Carolina Lifestyle Blogger Adventures of Frugal Mom

If you have ever been selected for jury duty, or even watched TV programmes or films where a jury is involved, you may have an idea of what the jury does. The jury fulfils a crucial role in any justice system, and they are present for most criminal cases. There are some occasions where a jury is not present, and that’s when either the case isn’t ‘serious’ enough, such as traffic violations, defamation cases etc. There are also trials called bench trials, often used for administrative hearings, and in these cases, a judge of a case concludes the verdict, not a jury. In this case, a jury would not be needed at all. However, for the majority of other hearings and trials, there will be a jury selected to represent the people and the people’s voice. 

The selection of the jury is totally random at first. The justice system has a large database filled with names and these names are selected at random. A jury service letter is sent via post automatically. If selected, someone is obliged to do their jury service unless they have a valid reason not to do so. There are also some occasions where people cannot be chosen to do jury service, such as if they have a criminal record, if someone were to have any physical or mental impairments, or if someone does or has previously worked in the police force or army. Once selected, the chosen jury will go to a court where they will undergo some sort of questioning to make sure they’re suitable to be on a jury. If not accepted, these jury members can be excused, and a new member will be found. This is so that every defendant gets the right to a fair trial without any bias. The jury is made up of 12 random people but usually, about 24-30 jury members are selected at a time so that a full jury can be made up if someone is excused. 

Once the jury has been selected, it’s time for the trial to start. For the duration of the trial, the jury must listen to everything that is being said. This means listening to the criminal lawyers, prosecution, witnesses, and the judge. Each person will play an influential role for each jury member, so it’s vital that each member listens carefully so that they don’t miss any details. During the trial, the lawyers will make some pretty good arguments, but the jury cannot ask questions or react in any way to what’s being said. This is to remain impartial. It is the job of the criminal defense attorney and the prosecution to put forward their arguments as to why a client is innocent or guilty and from the actions of these lawyers, the jury can make their decision. There is no time frame on a trial, and it could last anything from a few days to many weeks, or even months. When the trial day is over, the jury can discuss what went on in court that day with one another, but with no one else. If a jury member is to discuss the case with anyone other than the jury, the whole trial is compromised, and they will be released from jury duty. 

Once the trial is concluded, the jury can then deliberate their verdict. This means considering every fact put forward by the defense and prosecution and deciding the fate of the person on trial. There is no limit on the amount of time a jury can decide the verdict. In some cases, the verdict has been announced after only a few hours, but in other cases, it has taken a jury days, sometimes even weeks, to seal someone’s fate. This is the most nerve-racking decision for everyone in court. A criminal lawyer hopes that they have provided enough evidence to prove their client is innocent and the prosecution will hope for the opposite. In most cases, the jury votes unanimously, meaning everyone agrees with the guilty or not guilty verdict. If the jury members cannot agree, it’s up to the judge to decide what to do. If 11 members agree, in some cases, the judge can vote with the majority. In other cases, the one member that does not agree and will not change their vote may be replaced. If the outcome is a hung jury, meaning 6 believe a guilty verdict and 6 believe a non-guilty verdict, the whole trial can start again with a new jury.   The whole process of a trial is very stressful. Not only for the jury but for the criminal lawyers and defense too. However, it is a job that must be done so that the law is upheld.

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