skip navigation


Register for Latest Research

Stay Informed
Register with NCJRS to receive NCJRS's biweekly e-newsletter JUSTINFO and additional periodic emails from NCJRS and the NCJRS federal sponsors that highlight the latest research published or sponsored by the Office of Justice Programs.

NCJRS Abstract

The document referenced below is part of the NCJRS Virtual Library collection. To conduct further searches of the collection, visit the Virtual Library. See the Obtain Documents page for direction on how to access resources online, via mail, through interlibrary loans, or in a local library.


NCJ Number: 163076 Find in a Library
Title: Do You Swear That You Will Well and Truly Try ...?
Journal: Polygraph  Volume:24  Issue:4  Dated:(1995)  Pages:290-296
Author(s): B Holland
Date Published: 1995
Page Count: 7
Type: Historical Overview
Format: Article
Language: English
Country: United States of America
Annotation: This paper traces the history of ways various societies have sought to distinguish between the guilty and the innocent, reviews the history of the use of the jury, and considers the character and selection of contemporary juries.
Abstract: In various societies, great faith has been placed in trial by ordeal, all the way from the Old Testament to the Australian outback. The ordeal usually involved fire, water, or poison. In some cultures, those who survived an administration of poison were deemed innocent, although usually extremely ill; under Saxon law, if you could carry several pounds of glowing red-hot iron in your bare hands for nine steps or walk barefoot over nine red-hot plowshares without getting any blisters, you were innocent of any charges. In Britain, Africa, and parts of Asia, plunging your arm into boiling water, oil, or lead without the usual results proved innocence. Alongside trial by ordeal, the Saxons were developing a human jury system, but it was available only to persons known in the community to be honest. Justice was still a neighborhood matter under early juries. Everyone was supposed to know everyone else and have some first-hand knowledge of what happened. Rather recently, however, this concept has been reversed, and juries are supposed to know nothing of the case or the defendant prior to being placed on the jury. It is more and more difficult, given the thorough media reporting on criminal investigations, to find jurors sufficiently isolated to qualify. It is questionable whether prospective jurors who avoid media coverage are sufficiently interested in what goes on around them to make good jurors. Isolated and ill-informed people do not necessarily make good decisionmakers. How do we choose among strangers not necessarily wise but merely registered to vote? Once the blatantly prejudiced have been excused, both sides take up the peremptory challenge of turning down jurors for the way they look, dress, or comb their hair. The new profession of jury- selection consultant has developed under the awareness that a person's background and views on issues related to the case can be used to predict how they would decide the case. The differing agendas of the prosecution and the defense complicate jury selection. Whatever it may read or watch, however, the modern jury does not know what it was designed to know, that is, its neighbors, thus making the jury susceptible to manipulation by clever, dramatic, and persuasive attorneys.
Main Term(s): Court procedures
Index Term(s): Juries; Jury decisionmaking; Jury selection; Voir dire
Note: Reprinted from the March 1995 issue of "Smithsonian."
To cite this abstract, use the following link:

*A link to the full-text document is provided whenever possible. For documents not available online, a link to the publisher's website is provided. Tell us how you use the NCJRS Library and Abstracts Database - send us your feedback.