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Is Trial by Jury an Efficient and Just System - Essay Example

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Is Trial by Jury an Efficient and Just System? For those that stand accused of a crime, either in a civil or criminal court, there are two options available to them: a trial by jury, or a bench trial, in which a judge confers a verdict. In the United States of America, the right to a trial by jury in either a criminal or a civil court was considered so important by the Founding Fathers that it was written into the Bill of Rights, stating that “In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed.” (U.S…
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Download file to see previous pages Const., amend. VII). Many states have considered the right to a trial by jury so important that it is written into state constitutions as well (Saks). It is, therefore, not an exaggeration to say that the right to a trial by jury is considered a fundamental right of the American legal and judicial system. A trial by jury has its roots in Great Britain, where juries were used to provide protection against the harsh judgments of those that were in the favor of the King, and therefore handed down relatively harsh judgments for relatively small crimes (Graham, 2009). That system has grown, from Britain, to the United States, where in 2006 an estimated 154,000 jury trials were held nationwide (Mize, Hannaford-Agor & Waters, 2007). However, this does not mean that the system itself is perfect; indeed, if incarcerated criminals were questioned, most would likely say that the judicial system had not done what they hoped it would do. Trials by jury take time to put together, and can be expensive to everyone involved (VanKoppen, 2009). Trials by jury also have the benefits, however, of fairness and impartiality, the bigger availability of resources, and because juries do not have the same concerns over image or power as a judge does. For these reasons, a trial by jury is an efficient and just system in proving guilt or innocence. One reason that trial by jury is an efficient and just system is that juries are chosen based on their ability to be impartial and fair towards the one who stands accused. This is proven during the jury selection, when both lawyers ask questions and ensure that each person impaneled on the jury can be fair and impartial during the trial (Saks). Potential jurors that have a problem with certain sets of circumstances, such as racism or even possibly voting for the death penalty in capital cases are dismissed (Saks). In this way, fairness towards the accused is ensured. In contrast, a judge must go through no such procedure. The role of a judge was created for the very reason of protecting an accused (Graham, 2009). It is taken for granted that a judge will be impartial; even though the Constitution does not say that a judge must be, it is the right of every American to enjoy such a privilege at trial (Siegel, 2010). However, this is not always the way that the judicial system works. Corruption is not unknown, and judges have, in the past, been bought or bribed to render decisions. Consider Operation Greylord, a Federal probe that exposed widespread corruption in the Cook County, Illinois court system in 1983 (Bogira, 2005). Judges had been found to be extorting money from prosecution and defense lawyers, as well as taking money directly in exchange for certain verdicts (Bogira, 2005). Had a jury trial been the route taken, instead of the judge being able to be bribed, twelve people would have had to be bribed or replaced. While it is true that jury tampering can certainly occur, it stands to reason that it is much harder to tamper with and convince twelve people to vote a certain way, as opposed to one judge. Juries, whether they are made up of six ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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