A View from the Jury Box

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The sessions judge considered the acquittal as perverse and referred the case to the high court. The prosecution argued that the jury had been misled by the presiding judge on four crucial points. One, the onus of proving that it was an accident and not premeditated murder was on Nanavati. Two was Sylvia's confession of the grave provocation for Nanavati or any specific incident in Ahuja's bedroom or both. Three, the judge wrongly told the jury that the provocation can also come from a third person. And four, the jury was not instructed that Nanavati's defense had to be proved, to the extent that there is no reasonable doubt in the mind of a reasonable person.

The court accepted the arguments, dismissed the jury's verdict and the case was freshly heard in the high court. Since the jury was alleged to have been influenced by media and public support for Nanavati, the Indian government abolished jury trials after the case. Nanavati was pardoned in by Vijayalakshmi Pandit , the then newly appointed Governor of Maharashtra.

The law in Ireland is historically based on English common law and had a similar jury system. Article 38 of the Constitution of Ireland mandates trial by jury for criminal offences, with exceptions for minor offences , military tribunals, and where "the ordinary courts are inadequate to secure the effective administration of justice, and the preservation of public peace and order".

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The principal statute regulating the selection, obligations and conduct of juries is the Juries Act as amended by the Civil Law Miscellaneous Provisions Act Normally consisting of twelve persons, juries are selected from a jury panel which is picked at random by the county registrar from the electoral register. It is not necessary that a jury be unanimous in its verdict. In Italy , a Civil law jurisdiction, untrained judges are present only in the Corte d'Assise , where two career magistrates are supported by six so-called Lay Judges , who are raffled from the registrar of voters.

In the Corte d'Assise, decisions concerning both fact and law matters are taken by the stipendiary judges and "Lay Judges" together at a special meeting behind closed doors, named Camera di Consiglio "Counsel Chamber" , and the Court is subsequently required to publish written explanations of its decisions within 90 days from the verdict. Errors of law or inconsistencies in the explanation of a decision can and usually will lead to the annulment of the decision.

A Court d'Assise and a Court d' Assise d'Appello decides on a majority of votes, and therefore predominantly on the votes of the lay judges, who are a majority of six to two, but in fact lay judges, who are not trained to write such explanation and must rely on one or the other stipendiary judge to do it, are effectively prevented from overruling both of them.

The Corte d'Assise has jurisdiction to try crimes carrying a maximum penalty of 24 years in prison or life imprisonment, and other serious crimes; felonies that fall under its jurisdiction include terrorism , murder, manslaughter, severe attempts against State personalities, as well as some matters of law requiring ethical and professional evaluations ex. Penalties imposed by the court can include life sentences. Juries are used in trials for all trials involving Category 4 offences such as treason, murder and manslaughter, although in exceptional circumstances a judge-alone trial may be ordered.

At the option of the defendant, juries may be used in trials involving Category 3 offences, that is offences where the maximum penalty available is two years imprisonment or greater. In civil cases, juries are only used in cases of defamation, false imprisonment and malicious prosecution.

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Juries must initially try to reach a unanimous verdict, but if one cannot be reached in a reasonable timeframe, the judge may accept a majority verdict of all-but-one i. Juries existed in Norway as early as the year , and perhaps even earlier. They brought the jury system to England and Scotland.

Though Norway and Denmark had different legal systems throughout their personal union — , and later under the governmental union — , there was attempt to harmonize the legal systems of the two countries. Even if juries were abolished, the layman continued to play an important role in the legal system throughout in Norway.

The jury was reintroduced in , and is solely used in criminal cases on the second tier of the three-tier Norwegian court system " Lagmannsretten ". The jury consists of 10 people, and has to reach a majority verdict consisting of seven or more of the jurors. In a sense, the concept of being judged by one's peers exists on both the first and second tier of the Norwegian court system: In Tingretten , one judge and two lay judges preside, and in Lagmannsretten three judges and four lay judges preside if a jury is not used.

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The lay judges do not hold any legal qualification, and represent the peers of the person on trial, as members of the general public. As a guarantee against any abuse of power by the educated elite, the number of lay judges always exceeds the number of appointed judges. In the Supreme Court , only trained lawyers are seated.

Spain has no strong tradition of using juries. However we can find mentions in the Bayonne Statute. Later, Article of the Spanish Constitution of allowed the Cortes to pass legislation if they felt that over the time it was needed to distinguish between "judges of law" and "judges of facts". Such legislation however was never enacted. Article 2 of the Spanish Constitution of while proclamating the freedom of the people to publicate written contents without previous censorship according to the laws also provided that "press crimes" could only be tried by juries.

This meant that a grand jury would need to indict, and a petit jury would need to convict. Juries were later abolished in , but were later restored in for all "political crimes" and "those common crimes the law may deem appropriate to be so tried by a jury". A Law concerning the Jury entered into force on January 1, and lasted until , where juries were again disbanded with the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War.

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The actual Constitution of permits the Cortes Generales to pass legislation allowing juries in criminal trials. The provision is arguably somewhat vague: "Article — Citizens may engage in popular action and participate in the administration of justice through the institution of the Jury, in the manner and with respect to those criminal trials as may be determined by law, as well as in customary and traditional courts. Jury trials can only happen in the criminal jurisdiction and it is not a choice of the defendant to be tried by jury, or by a single judge or a panel of judges.

For all other crimes, a single judge or a panel of judges will decide both on facts and the law. Spanish juries are composed of 9 citizens and a professional Judge. Juries decide on facts and whether to convict or acquit the defendant. In case of conviction they can also make recommendations such as if the defendant should be pardoned if they asked to, or if they think the defendant could be released on parole, etc.

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One of the first jury trial cases was that of Mikel Otegi who was tried in for the murder of two police officers. After a confused [ clarification needed ] trial, five jury members of a total of nine voted to acquit and the judge ordered the accused set free. This verdict shocked the nation. In press libel cases and other cases concerning offenses against freedom of the press, the question of whether or not the printed material falls outside permissible limits is submitted to a jury of 9 members which provides a pre-screening before the case is ruled on by normal courts.

In these cases 6 out of 9 jurors must find against the defendant, and may not be overruled in cases of acquittal. Sweden has no tradition of using juries in most types of criminal or civil trial. The sole exception, since , is in cases involving freedom of the press, prosecuted under Chapter 7 of the Freedom of the Press Act, part of Sweden's constitution. These cases are tried in district courts first tier courts by a jury of nine laymen.

The jury in press freedom cases rules only on the facts of the case and the question of guilt or innocence. The trial judge may overrule a jury's guilty verdict, but may not overrule an acquittal. A conviction requires a majority verdict of 6—3. Sentencing is the sole prerogative of judges. Jury members must be Swedish citizens and resident in the county in which the case is being heard. They must be of sound judgement and known for their independence and integrity.

Combined, they should represent a range of social groups and opinions, as well as all parts of the county. It is the county council that have the responsibility to appoints juries for a tenure of four years under which they may serve in multiple cases. The appointed jurymen are divided into two groups, in most counties the first with sixteen members and the second with eight. From this pool of available jurymen the court hears and excludes those with conflicts of interest in the case, after which the defendants and plaintiffs have the right to exclude a number of members, varying by county and group.

The final jury is then randomly selected by drawing of lots. Juries are not used in other criminal and civil cases. For most other cases in the first and second tier courts lay judges sit alongside professional judges. Lay judges participate in deciding both the facts of the case and sentencing.


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Lay judges are appointed by local authorities, or in practice by the political parties represented on the authorities. In England and Wales jury trials are used for criminal cases, requiring 12 jurors between the ages of 18 and 75 , although the trial may continue with as few as 9. The right to a jury trial has been enshrined in English law since Magna Carta in , and is most common in serious cases, although the defendant can insist on a jury trial for most criminal cases.

Jury trials in complex fraud cases have been described by some members and appointees of the Labour Party as expensive and time-consuming. Jury trials are also available for some few areas of civil law for example defamation cases and those involving police conduct ; these also require 12 jurors 9 in the County Court. During the Troubles in Northern Ireland , jury trials were suspended and trials took place before Diplock Courts.

These were essentially trials before judges only. This was to combat the intimidation of juries. Scottish trials are based on an adversarial approach. First the prosecution leads evidence from witnesses and after each witness the defence has an opportunity to cross examine. Following the Prosecution case, the defence may move a motion of no case to answer if the worst the prosecution has been able to lead in evidence would be insufficient to convict of any crime.

If there remains a case to answer, the defence leads evidence from witnesses in an attempt to refute previous evidence led by the prosecution, with cross examination being permitted after each witness. Once both prosecution and defence have concluded leading evidence, the case goes to summing up where firstly the prosecution and then the defence get to sum up their case based on the evidence that has been heard.

Science in the jury box: jurors' comprehension of mitochondrial DNA evidence.

The jury is given guidance on points of law and then sent out to consider its verdict. Juries are composed of fifteen residents. In criminal law in federal courts and a minority of state court systems of the United States, a grand jury is convened to hear only testimony and evidence to determine whether there is a sufficient basis for deciding to indict the defendant and proceed toward trial.

In each court district where a grand jury is required, a group of 16—23 citizens holds an inquiry on criminal complaints brought by the prosecutor to decide whether a trial is warranted based on the standard that probable cause exists that a crime was committed , in which case an indictment is issued. In jurisdictions where the size of a jury varies, in general the size of juries tends to be larger if the crime alleged is more serious.

If a grand jury rejects a proposed indictment the grand jury's action is known as a "no bill. This is so because a grand jury cannot convict a defendant. It can only decide to indict the defendant and proceed forward toward trial. Grand juries vote to indict in the overwhelming majority of cases, and prosecutors are not prohibited from presenting the same case to a new grand jury if a "no bill" was returned by a previous grand jury.

A typical grand jury considers a new criminal case every fifteen minutes. In some jurisdictions, in addition to indicting persons for crimes, a grand jury may also issue reports on matters that they investigate apart from the criminal indictments, particularly when the grand jury investigation involves a public scandal. Historically, grand juries were sometimes used in American law to serve a purpose similar to an investigatory commission.