: English for Law Students. 2 year. Part 2 - ( ..)


: 1569

Text 1 from the history of jury what is jury?

Jury, in law, is a body of people who are chosen to decide the truth of factual

evidence in an action or legal proceeding and, on instruction of the court, to apply the law to the facts. Such a body is called a petit jury or trial jury. Traditionally, a trial jury consists of 12 people, often with one or two alternates.

Origin of jury

The exact origin of the jury system is not known; various writers have

attributed it to different European peoples who at an early period developed methods of trial not unlike the early jury trials in England. It seems probable that the jury in England was derived directly from the Norman institution of recognition by sworn inquest, whereby 12 knights were chosen to serve as recognitors. Their duty was to inquireinto various matters of interest to the new rulers of England that might be the subject of public inquiry. These matters of interest might include the taxation of a subject.

As early as the 12th century, it had become customary for suitors in certain cases affecting the title to real estate to apply to the King's Court for the summoning of recognitors to ascertain, either from their own knowledge or on inquiry from others, the truth of the matter at issue; the verdict of the court, if unanimous, was accepted as conclusive. It was natural that other questions of fact arising in the King's Court should be disposed of in a similar manner, and the gradual transformation of the recognitors into the jury in common law followed as a matter of course. Originally, the jury members were not only judges of fact, but were also witnesses who were selected because of their knowledge of the customs and the people of the locality, and possibly of the suitors themselves. In the early 15th century, however, the judges of the courts of common law restricted the jury to the performance of its function as a judge of fact based on the evidence submitted in an action. This is the single function of the jury in modern practice.

Although the modern jury system originated during the late Middle Ages in England, trial by jury was one of the most prominent features of public life in ancient Athens, probably the most democratic of the Greek city-states. In Aristotle's Constitution of Athens', there are some striking similarities to

modern processes for assembling juries. The chief difference is that all matters pertaining to a trial in Athens were in the hands of nonprofessionals. There was no judge, well trained in all aspects of law, to guide the jurors in their deliberations. All jurors were chosen by lot for a particular trial, as was the magistrate who presided over the court.

In addition, there were no trial lawyers. During a trial, any citizen could prosecute a case and the defendant had to conduct his own defense. These were truly people's courts. Every year a jury list of several thousand names was made up from the census of citizens. Juries for ordinary cases consisted of from 200 to 500 members, much larger than the 12-member trial juries that are standard today. At the famous trial of the philosopher Socrates in 399 BC, there were 501 jurors.

After evidence was presented in such trials and speeches were made by the prosecutor and the defendant, there was no jury deliberation, as there is in modern trials. Each member of the jury was given two metal tokens before the trial began. One signified guilt and the other innocence. At the end of the trial, each juror put the token representing his decision into a brass urn and threw the other into a wooden box. The tokens in the urn were counted and the verdict rendered on the basis of a majority vote. Socrates, for example, was found guilty by a majority of 60 tokens. If there was a tie vote, the defendant was declared innocent. After the trial all jurors were paid for their services.

Although this system represented an advanced form of direct democracy, it had disadvantages: There were no legal experts to state legal precedents. The juries were too large, closer to the size of legislative bodies. And verdicts could easily be based on the whims and passions of the population at a given moment, instead of being derived from the practices of settled law. This is, in fact, what happened in the trial of Socrates.


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