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What is the Role of a Jury in a Criminal Trial?
If you are facing criminal charges, you will be tried in a courtroom in front of a jury of your peers. A jury trial is a basic right that all defendants are granted by decree of the Constitution. What is a jury, and what is the role of a jury in a criminal trial?
What Is a Jury?
A jury is a group of people who are assigned to judge the evidence against the defendant. They will listen to testimony from witnesses, experts and others who are called to provide context to a case. After both sides have made their case, the jury will then deliberate and come to a verdict. Before a trial begins, the jury is selected by both the defense and the prosecution. Anyone who is over the age of 18 and can speak English is generally eligible for jury service.
What Is the Role of the Jury in a Trial?
The jury will ultimately determine if there is sufficient evidence to convict a person for the crime that he or she is accused of committing. If the jury decides that there is, the person will be convicted and sentenced later by a judge. If the jury decides that there is not sufficient evidence, the defendant will be declared not guilty and may be allowed to walk free.
Decisions Must Be Unanimous
All of the jurors hearing a case must agree that the defendant is guilty or not guilty. To ensure the integrity of the deliberations, no one is allowed to contact a juror without permission of the court. If there is not a unanimous decision that a defendant is guilty or not guilty, it may be considered a hung jury. This may result in a new trial for the defendant where a verdict may be reached by a new jury. However, juries are given as much time as they need to deliberate and can review any evidence that they need to make the right decision.
While the judge may make the rules in the courtroom and issue the final verdict, the judge does not determine guilt or innocence. Only the impartial jurors in the juror box may do that after hearing the evidence presented. If the jury determines that a defendant is not guilty, that person generally may not be tried on the same charge again.