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In the law, a jury is a body of citizens which decides questions of fact, i.e., verdict in a jury trial. The members of a jury are known as jurors. Juries are used common law jurisdictions as well as in some civil law jurisdictions. The role of the jury as the "finder of fact" is distinguished from that of the judge, who is the "finder of law." This means the jury only decides the correct version of events from the often-conflicting testimony and other evidence. It does not decide any legal questions that may arise. The jury must follow the instructions of the judge as to the requirements of the law. When there is no jury ("bench trial"), the judge assumes both roles.

In the US, the term can refer to a grand jury which issues an indictment or a petit jury which is present at a trial. When used alone the term usually refers to the latter.

In the United States, England and Scotland, defendants in most serious criminal cases have a right to trial by jury. The Sixth Amendment to the United States Constitution guarantees the right to jury trial in both state and federal criminal proceedings, although in practice most criminal actions in the US are resolved by plea bargain.

Juries are also used in many civil cases in the United States, and the Seventh Amendment to the United States Constitution explicitly protects the right to a jury trial in civil cases tried in the United States District Courts.

In English law, juries are only used in civil cases for criminal libel, or in some cases where the state is the defendant, such as some cases of wrongful imprisonment.

In most criminal justice systems which require juries, panels are initially selected at random from the adult population of the district served by the court concerned. Individuals once selected are required by law to serve, often with exemptions for people whose job in some way precludes them (for instance, teachers, doctors, or people who themselves work in the criminal justice system), are caring for young children, or who have health problems. Most jurisdictions also limit jury service to citizens.

Potential jurors form the jury pool. It is narrowed by a selection process. Jurors are allocated to particular trials by a system of examination known as voir dire whereby both the prosecution (or plaintiff, in a civil case) and defense can object to a juror. Some jurisdictions give both the defense and prosecution a specific number of unconditional peremptory challenges, while most allow argument over whether a juror's particular background or beliefs make them biased and therefore unsuitable for service on the jury. Typically a jury panel has twelve members, sometimes with a number of "alternates" who follow the trial but are not included in the deliberations unless a jury member is unable to continue for some reason.

In most civil law systems, a jury is not used, although lay assessors perform many of the functions of juries in some systems. In the US, juries are used in civil trials. In Japan, the post-war constitution guarantees the right to trial by jury, although this right is almost never used because it is believed that anyone who is desperate enough to want to have fellow citizens decide their fate is almost certainly guilty of the crime that they are charged with.

The jurors then hear the cases presented by both the defense and prosecution, and in some jurisdictions a summing-up from the judge. They then retire as a group to consider a verdict in secret, which they must reach unanimously in US criminal cases. On the rare occasions when no unanimous decision can be reached by the jury, (sometimes referred to as a hung jury,) a mistrial is declared, and the case must be retried with a newly constituted jury.

Some jurisdictions allow majority verdicts in criminal cases if a juror becomes unfit to continue, or if a judge permits it when a jury is deadlocked. At least 10 jurors must agree. Other than that, there are no restrictions on how a jury may proceed to reach such a verdict, and no set time limit. Occasionally juries deliberate for several days.

In the United States, some juries are also empowered to consider some aspects of a defendant's sentence, if the defendant has been convicted. This is notably now a requirement in all death penalty cases. This is not the practice in most other legal systems based on the English tradition, in which judges retain sole responsibility for deciding sentences according to law.

The exception is the award of damages in English law libel cases, although a judge is now obliged to make a recommendation to the jury as to the appropriate amount.

The term "jury" is also used for groups of judges who decide on awards in various artistic areas, notably writing and film.

The period between 1830-1850 was when the modern adversarial jury trial took shape. See: D. J. A. Cairns, Advocacy and the Making of the Adversarial Criminal Trial, 1800-1865 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1998)

Table of contents
1 To be merged
2 See also
3 External links

To be merged

Traditionally a jury consists of 12 jurors. However, the number of jurors is often reduced to six by agreement of both parties.

The United States

Jury selection is a rather complicated process. A jury is made up from a list of citizens living in the jurisdiction of the court. When selected, being a juror is in principle compulsory. However, jurors can be dismissed for several reasons and many people are released from serving on a jury. People can, for instance, claim hardship if they take care of their children. It is sometimes joked that a jury is not "a jury of one's peers", but is instead "twelve people too stupid to get out of jury duty."


The jury is made of 9 lay jurors in first instance and 12 on appeal, supplemented with 3 professional judges.

Jury selection is a rather complicated process. A jury is made up from a list of citizens registered for voting in the jurisdiction of the court, but there are exemptions (because of old age, for instance) and incompatibilities with certain public positions. Attendance is otherwise compulsory, but costs and loss of pay are compensated by the state.

England and Wales

In England and Wales, the jury consists of 12 jurors, each randomly selected from the electoral register for the locality of the court. Any registered voter between the ages 18 and 70 may therefore be selected, although there are numerous reasons for exemption from duty. These include insufficient understanding of English, certain occupations (e.g. students, teachers, armed forces and MPs) and being a member of a closed religious order. In addition, any summoned juror may defer their jury service for up to 12 months. The court will reimburse loss of earnings (currently, no more than 60 per day), travel costs and a subsistence rate.

As regards the selection process, a large number are selected at random from the electoral register -- many more than needed, since some may find they are excused, defer initial service or be moved to another court (due to a change of address not notified). When a court requires a jury, 14-16 potential jurors are selected at random from those in attendance, and led to the courtroom by an usher. Once there, 12 names are drawn from the list and, pending objection (which is heard immediately) or a request to 'stand by for the Crown' (heard only if fewer than 12 are empanelled), sworn in. Most jurors will take an oath under God or a faith-neutral affirmation. Oaths are generally available for other faiths. Before being sworn in, the judge will, in the event of a Long Case, ask if anyone would have a problem with serving on such a case. There is a joke that, as soon as this is asked, 12 hands are immediately raised.

See also

External links