The practice within the judicial system to incorporate the jury in criminal cases alongside the judge has a noble purpose in the administration of justice. The jury has a composition of vetted members of the public in the court of law to look into the facts in the criminal case presented in court and give a verdict at the end. It acts in the interest of the public and listens to the facts within a criminal case rather than the law involved. This approach is fundamental in the English judicial process because it ascertains that the criminal justice system serves the interest of the public instead of individuals who hold power within the society (Rawls, 1971). Even though there is criticism from various parties, including the media, on the biasness relating to some cases and the extra expenses the state incurs through remunerations, the effects on criminal cases are more advantageous concerning fairness and the consideration of public interests in adversarial criminal justice processes. Thus, one can confidently affirm that it carries a real guarantee of fairness between the state prosecutor and individual defendants.
The concept of the jury system within the judicial system historically became part of the English judicial system immediately after the conquest of Norman. The role of the early jury was to act as witnesses to give relevant accounts and sources of information on internal matters. Juries graduated to become adjudicators in criminal as well as civil cases. After this stage, they had the mandate to discuss and deliberate on evidence given by parties involved in a case. Reforms within the judicial system eventually created the position that the jury holds today. Stakeholders within the judicial system agreed that the jury was to know about some facts of a case before the trial could begin. The Supreme Court in Britain also held this position in early 1947. It proposed that whatever transpires or takes place in the court concerning criminal cases had public interest and should attract appropriate public attention (Vogler, 2005). The judge has the mandate of informing juries on legal matters concerning a criminal case. The judge gives instructions to the jury concerning its role and the most appropriate approach regarding a case within the boundaries of the law.
The role of the jury in the adversarial criminal justice system in many countries is very important. This is because the jury weighs the evidence presented by both parties in a criminal case and determines the facts in order to uncover what actually transpired. In the process, societal values, core beliefs and the intent of the act motivate the jury. After the determination of the facts in a case and the conviction based on the evidence, the jury gives their verdict on the case in question.
If the jury finds the defendant guilty in a criminal case, then the presiding judge is to pass a sentence on the accused as prescribed in the penal code. Acquittal verdicts normally occur on grounds of application of immoral law, the benefit of the doubt on the evidence presented against the defendant, and if the social attachment to the case introduces the need to analyze the case in a more comprehensive manner that incorporates aspects beyond the case itself. The role of the jury is to acquit a liable defendant when it concludes that the law applied in the case is immoral. The jury deliberately rejects the evidence presented or blatantly refuses to apply the law either because it wants to express to the public a message on the social implication in the case or because in its perception of the law, the available evidence does not make judicial sense, is not moral or is unfair. The jury has the benefit of addressing injustices that might result from the manipulation of the court by powerful and influential individuals and leaders. It acts to ensure that the criminal justice system protects the public interests instead of those of unjust state officials or political leaders. The jury also helps to keep in check laws that are immoral and unjust in certain instances (Malsch, 2009).
The jury only deals in the minority of cases in the criminal justice system. This limits their scope of representing the interest of the public within the judiciary. Minority cases are the most serious of all the cases that prosecutors present before the court. Respective governments have also introduced measures that intend to reduce the role of the jury within the court in order to reduce the level of spending on this body. In addition, most countries have not entrenched the role of the jury in the constitution, but in the acts of parliament. These acts are vulnerable to amendments to suit political leaders. The jury is limited to qualify for trial in cases of fraud, slander and libel, malicious prosecution and false imprisonment. There have been numerous suggestions regarding the abolition of the jury from the media and most parts of the world including Australia. Most people argue that the jury discriminates in its verdicts based on race, age, sex and employment. In this regard, it is necessary to replace it with betters systems that promote fair delivery of justice. Other people argue that minor offences such as fraud and theft should be summary offences and thus are outside the jurisdiction of the jury. Furthermore, there are arguments that the jury introduces challenges that hinder the judge from making elaborate and satisfactory analyses of cases. This interferes with the dispensing of justice in a democratic way. The most sustained argument for the abolition of the jury relates to the aspect of being economically unviable for the state due to the expense incurred in sustaining the jury. People who argue that dispensing justice using the jury is a sign of maturity in democracy in a country and offer public service to the people support the need to retain the jury as an important element within the justice system. Despite views on the need to abolish the jury, this body remains operational in the criminal justice system (Gordon & freeman, 2006).
The incorporation of the jury within the justice system promotes division of labor among various departments of the judiciary and facilitates fair delivery of justice. This body works based on collectives’ efforts of professionals who help a judge in establishing the most appropriate decision in a case. Despite the crucial role that the jury plays, views from different sectors highlight that some groups perceive this body as irrelevant within the justice system. In this regard, there are propositions to abolish the jury and replace it with a more functional body. Although the jury faces challenges in executing its duties due to its limited scope of operation, it is a crucial element within the judiciary.
Gordon, B., & Freeman, M. D. (2006). Law and psychology. New York: Oxford University Press.
Malsch, M. (2009). Democracy in the courts lay participation in European criminal justice systems. Farnham, Surrey, England: Ashgate.
Rawls, J. (1971). A theory of justice. Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press.
Vogler, R. (2005). A world view of criminal justice. Aldershot, Hants, England: Ashgate.