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


: 1775

Text 4 the work of a jury

The jury is the trier of the facts. First, it listens to the lawyers openingstatements. In these, the lawyers for each side tell the jury what they think the evidence will show. Then the jury listens to witnesses telling what they know about the case to the lawyers on both sides who ask them questions. The jury may also examine physical evidence, such as photographs, weapons, or other objects. In some cases jurors are taken out of the courtroom for a jury view. For example, in a criminal case, they may go to examine the scene of the crime. In a civil case, they may go to see a piece of machinery that injured someone. But there are some facts that a jury will not be allowed to hear because the information might make them prejudiced against one side.

Take the case of John Sanders, who was driving the car that hit Peter Thompson. Peter was hurt very badly and is now confined to a wheelchair. John Sanders was convicted last year of the crime of causing serious bodily harm while driving under the influence of alcohol. Today Peter Thompson is suing John for hundreds of thousands of dollars in damages to pay for his medical expenses. His pain and suffering, and for lost wages because he can no longer work at the construction job he had before. A jury will decide whether John caused Peters injuries and damages, but they will not know that John has been convicted of the criminal charges. If jurors heard anyone testify that John Sanders had already been convicted of a similar crime, the judge would have todeclareamistrial. When a mistrial is declared, the trial ends. Both sides have to start all over with a brand-new jury. Keeping facts from a jury is very controversial. Some people feel it is essential to protect juries from prejudice, other think that jurors should be trusted to be fair in weighing ALL the facts, even if some things look bad for one side or the other.

If jurors have questions, they usually cant just raise their hands in the courtroom and ask them. They must wait until they are in the jury room, write out the questions, and give them to the bailiff, who gives them to the judge. The judge then decides how to respond to the jurys questions. More recently, some judges have experimented in allowing jurors to ask their own questions of a witness. Many jurors feel this helps them in making the decision.

Finally, the jury hears closing arguments and instructions. The lawyers for each side get a chance to tell the jurors what conclusion they think the jury should draw and why. They try to persuade the jurors why they should agree with their side. Then the judge instructs the jury in the law: the judge tells the jury what laws apply to the case (for example, the judge might

explain which driver had the right-of-way in an automobile accident, or what the law says about the duty of a landowner towards an uninvited guest, or how the law defines self-defence, etc.) It is then left to the jury to decide which witnesses are telling the truth.

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