What is a Jury? (continued)

Types of Juries (continued):

If the jurors are not convinced "beyond a reasonable doubt" that a defendant
is guilty, they must acquit him or her--that is, return a verdict of not guilty.  Traditionally, the jurors must reach a unanimous verdict.  However, some states accept a specified majority vote.  Until about 1970, juries consisted of 12 members and 1 or 2 alternate jurors.  Today, some states use juries of as few as 6 members. 

A “hung jury” is one in which the required number of jurors cannot agree on a verdict.  A new trial--with new jurors--is held in such cases.
Jury nullification is a jury’s right to deliver a not-guilty verdict even where such a verdict clearly conflicts with the letter of the law*.

* Source = Wikipedia, 2004


The names of possible jurors are selected by the court from such sources as tax rolls, voting lists, and telephone directories.  From the selected names, people are then chosen by lot and summoned for possible service on a jury.
Before becoming a jury member, a person is questioned by the trial judge, the opposing lawyers, or both.  This procedure is known as the “
voir dire”.  The attorneys may reject any person for cause.  They do so by stating why a person should not serve as a juror.  For example, the person may be related to someone involved in the case.  The lawyers are also permitted a limited number of rejections called peremptory challenges.  Lawyers need give no reason for making these challenges.  But a new trial may be ordered if a judge decides that the lawyers have made their challenges solely on account of race.

The U.S. Constitution provides that jurors in a criminal trial must be neutral regarding the case.  In most situations, the jurors are selected from the community where the supposed crime occurred.  An accused person may choose to be tried by a judge without a jury.


·          Grand juries consist of from 16 to 23 members in most states.  There    are two kinds of grand juries in the United States, charging and investigatory.  A charging grand jury decides whether there is enough evidence to try a person suspected of a crime.  If the jury finds sufficient evidence, it makes a formal accusation, called an indictment, against the person.  The suspect is then tried by a petit jury.  An investigatory grand jury investigates (1) suspected dishonesty of public officials and (2) possible crime, especially organized crime.

·          Coroner's juries.  A coroner's jury conducts an inquest (study) into the cause of death in cases that involve doubt.  Most coroner's juries consist of six members.  As an institution, the coroner's jury is being displaced by the office of the medical examiner.


Click here to find out about efforts to reform jury service:

Sources:  World Book Encyclopedia 2002; Encyclopedia Britannica Intermediate

"Magna Carta and Its American Legacy"  by the National Archives and Records Administration

What is a Jury?

What is a Jury? page 2

Jury service reform

Model Jury Duty Legislation

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