The jury system in this country is quite complex and also quite unique. In June, Adam M Smith was selected to sit on the Grand Jury together with a number of other women and men in his District. This was the first time he was able to experience the jury system first-hand and he felt an explanation on how things work could be beneficial to others.
Adam M Smith on the Jury System
In this country, most people are offered a trial by jury. This means that a body of their peers hears the available evidence and makes a decision based on that. The jury is made up from random individuals chosen from the electoral roll period they are then sent a questionnaire to determine whether or not they are eligible to sit. As such:
- Police officers, magistrates, and judges are in eligible.
- Those who have been imprisoned for more than 5 years and those who have been convicted of a felony offence are disqualified.
- Pilots, those over the age of 65, and teachers have the right to be excused.
Should someone be eligible to sit on the jury, they will attend court for at least 3 days. A jury pool is created from which individuals are selected when their name is picked from a ballot box at random. If they are chosen, they will go to the jury box where they may be challenged before they are given a seat.
The Role of the Jury
The jury exists to create a verdict in a criminal case. This must be unanimous and or majority. When a jury is impaneled, the individual members must:
- Attend court during the trial.
- Listen to the evidence, remember it, and analyze it.
- Abide by the law.
- Determine any questions of fact.
- Listen to the criminal offences for which someone has been indicted by the grand jury if appropriate.
- Deliberate over verdict without giving reasons for this.
- Determine a verdict that is beyond reasonable doubt in criminal cases.
- Determine a verdict that is on the balance of probabilities in civil cases.
- Provide a unanimous 12/12 verdict in criminal murder cases.
- Provide a majority verdict 11/12 in non murder criminal cases.
- Provide a unanimous 6/6 verdict in civil cases if possible or majority verdict 5/6 if not possible.
- To assess appropriate damages in a civil case.
The jury system has its own pros and cons. This country is one of the few in which certain states still also used the grand jury system, which has even further pros and cons. Alternatives could be to have a trial by a panel of Judges, a trial by a single judge on there own, or trial in which judges and lay persons are mixed. Each of these options as advantages and disadvantages and there will always be supporters and opponents of all. Regardless of which trial system is used, the overall aim is to ensure that someone is presumed innocent until proven guilty at all times.