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NCJRS Abstract

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NCJ Number: 78057 Find in a Library
Title: American Jury - Instrument of Justice or of Prejudice and Conformity? (From Social System and Legal Process, P 254-293, 1978, Harry M Johnson, ed. - See NCJ-78053)
Author(s): R J Simon
Date Published: 1978
Page Count: 40
Sponsoring Agency: Jossey-Bass Publishers
San Francisco, CA 94103-1741
Sale Source: Jossey-Bass Publishers
989 Market Street
San Francisco, CA 94103-1741
United States of America
Type: Report (Study/Research)
Language: English
Country: United States of America
Annotation: Whether juries act as a bulwark against oppressive government, as originally intended, or primarily reflect the collective prejudice and ignorance of the citizenry is examined.
Abstract: The study reviews the performance of the juries in many of the major trials of the 1950's, 1960's, and 1970's that have involved issues of individual liberty, the right of dissent, and other issues related to First Amendment civil liberties. The trials analyzed were selected on the basis of their importance as attested to by experts in law, by the attention they received in the media, and by the objective consequences of the verdicts. Each jury's verdict is examined within the context of the nature of the offenses with which the defendants are charged; the social, economic, and political characteristics of the defendants; the extent and tone of the media coverage; the prevailing political mood of the country; the judicial decisions in bench trials of a comparable type heard during the same period; and whether the jury's verdict was upheld on appeal. In none of the periods examined is there any evidence or suggestion of the jury's lack of independence, failure to understand the issues or complexities of the problems involved, or incompetence in performing duties. The lack of consistency speaks well for the jury system, since each decision should be based upon the issues unique to the case being decided. In almost every trial, the jury performed lengthy deliberation. On the basis of posttrial interviews, the juries apparently reviewed the evidence, the instructions, and the arguments presented by the attorneys. When the jury voted to acquit, in no instance did the prosecution attack the integrity of the decision. Eleven notes and 17 references are listed.
Index Term(s): Case studies; Constitutional Rights/Civil Liberties; Discrimination; Jury decisionmaking; Political offenders; Trials; Verdicts
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