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NCJRS Abstract

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NCJ Number: 90593 Find in a Library
Title: Threats to Fair Trial Rights (From Jurywork - Systematic Techniques - Second Edition, P 12.1-12.11, 1983, Beth Bonora and Elissa Krauss, ed. - See NCJ-90582)
Author(s): J Schulman; N Bush; W Goldfrank; M Greenfield
Date Published: 1983
Page Count: 11
Sponsoring Agency: Clark Boardman Company, Ltd
New York, NY 10014
Sale Source: Clark Boardman Company, Ltd
435 Hudson Street
New York, NY 10014
United States of America
Language: English
Country: United States of America
Annotation: Calls for law and order combined with demands for cost cutting have eroded the U.S. jury system's ability to fulfill its traditional democratic goals, as exemplified by Supreme Court decisions allowing six-person juries and nonunanimous verdicts, the withdrawal of the right to trial by jury for some misdemeanors, mandatory arbitration, and attacks on lawyer-conducted voir dire.
Abstract: The one exception to this trend is the Supreme Court's strengthening of the defendant's right to a jury representative of the community. The Court has distinguished serious offenses for which there is a Federal constitutional right to trial by jury and petty offenses for which there is not. The Court has determined that a serious offense is one with a penalty of 6 months or more incarceration, but other Federal courts using fines as criteria have rendered varying decisions. State courts are not bound by these rulings, but rely on their own constitutions, which often give more expansive rights to trial by jury than the Federal constitution. The Supreme Court in Williams v. Florida held that the right to trial by jury was satisfied by a 6-person rather than a 12-person jury and enunciated standards to determine whether a jury size is unconstitutional. However, smaller juries reduce the likelihood of obtaining a cross-section of the community and limit the role played by persons in the minority. The Court has also upheld nonunanimous verdicts in criminal trials, although this practice perverts the give-and-take of jury deliberations and makes the doctrine of reasonable doubt meaningless if a few jurors' doubts cannot be resolved by the majority. Coalitions of individuals, lawyers' associations, and public defenders must develop mechanisms for monitoring legislation threatening jury rights and testify persuasively on behalf of the jury system. The paper includes 30 footnotes.
Index Term(s): Jury quorum rule; Jury selection; Jury size changes; Right to trial by jury; Voir dire
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