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Jury System in the United States: A Quick Guide

The American jury system is one of the most important aspects of the legal system in the United States. It is a group of ordinary citizens who are selected to hear evidence and decide whether a defendant is guilty or not guilty of a crime. Juries play a vital role in ensuring that justice is served and that everyone receives a fair trial. In this blog post, we will provide a quick guide to the jury system in the United States, including how juries are selected and what they do. We hope you find it informative!

Do I have to get a jury?

If you are accused of a crime, you have the right to a trial by jury. This means that a group of your peers will hear the evidence against you and decide whether you are guilty or not guilty. You do not have to accept a jury trial, but if you do not, the judge will hear your case instead.


What Is a Jury?

A jury is a group of citizens who are called upon to decide the guilt or innocence of someone who has been accused of a crime. Its job is to listen to the evidence presented in court and then make a decision based on that evidence.

People who serve on juries are typically selected at random from voter registration lists or driver’s license records. In some states, jurors may be asked to serve on more than one trial during a given year, while other states only require jurors to serve once every few years.

Jury duty can be an important responsibility and is considered an important civic duty by many people. However, it can also be time-consuming and inconvenient for those selected to serve.

Jury Selection in the United States:

It is chosen in the United States by a process known as jury selection or jury vetting. This is a procedure by which potential jurors are screened for suitability to serve on a particular case. The process is conducted by the judge and attorneys for the parties involved in the case. 

The most common method of selection in the United States is random selection from a pool of eligible citizens, also known as the venire or voter’s rolls. However, there are other methods that may be used, such as having the attorneys for the parties choose from a list of potential jurors provided by the court. 

In the federal system, the selection is controlled by the Jury Selection and Service Act and the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure in criminal cases, and by the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure in civil cases. Each party in capital cases receives twenty peremptory strikes. In other felony circumstances, the defendant is given ten peremptory strikes while the prosecution gets six. Each side has three peremptory strikes in misdemeanor matters.

In some jurisdictions, jurors are picked through voter registration and license databases. A questionnaire is sent to potential jurors before they can be chosen to pre-qualify them by asking them about their citizenship status, disabilities, ability to understand English language proficiency, and whether they have any preexisting conditions that would rule them out as jurors.

Types of Juries:

There are two types of juries in the United States: petit and grand.

A petit jury hears evidence in a criminal trial and renders a verdict on the defendant’s guilt or innocence. A grand jury, on the other hand, is a body of jurors that meets occasionally to hear evidence in order to decide whether there is enough evidence to formally charge someone with a crime.

Petit Jury:

A petit jury, also known as a trial jury, is a group of citizens who serve during a criminal or civil trial to decide the case. The size of the group varies by state, but is typically between six and twelve people. They hear evidence from both sides and then deliberates in secret to reach a verdict. Once the verdict is reached, it is final and cannot be changed.

Grand Jury:

A grand jury is a group of citizens who listen to the evidence in felony cases and decide if there is enough evidence for the defendant to go to trial. They are different from trial juries, which are used in criminal trials, because they listen to the evidence behind closed doors and do not make a decision about the defendant’s guilt or innocence.

A grand jury typically consists of 23 citizens who serve for a term of 18 months. The prosecutor presents evidence to the grand jury, and the grand jurors decide whether there is enough evidence to charge the defendant with a felony. If they decide there is enough evidence, they issue an indictment, which is a document that formally charges the defendant with a felony.

How Does the Jury System Work in the US Courts?

The jury system in the United States courts is a system that allows for a trial by jury. This means that the defendant can have up to twelve people decide their fate, as opposed to a single person. This system is set in place as a way to ensure that the people have a say in how the justice system works and can be viewed as an impartial party.

The pool is selected from voter registrations and driver’s license lists. From there, potential jurors are called in for questioning, which helps to determine if they are biased or fit to serve on a specific case. If they are not fit, they are excused from service. If they are fit, they may be placed on the jury for that specific case.

This system in the United States is a vital part of the American criminal justice system. Juries play a key role in ensuring that defendants receive a fair trial, and they help to protect the rights of both defendants and victims. 

Juries in the United States are typically composed of 12 jurors, although some states allow for fewer jurors in certain cases. The jury is responsible for listening to the evidence presented at trial and deliberating on a verdict. In order to reach a verdict, all jurors must agree on the defendant’s guilt or innocence. 

In most states, before 2020, the verdicts in criminal matters must be unanimous with the exception of Oregon and Louisiana. In Oregon, a 10–2 majority was required for conviction, with the exception of capital felonies, which necessitate unanimous guilty verdicts in any murder case. In Oregon, unlike in any other state, a jury may return a verdict of Not Guilty in any case (including murder) by a margin of 10 to 2 or 11 to 1. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in April 2020 that felony convictions must be a unanimous decision from the jury, overturning Oregon’s and Louisiana’s previous permissions for split decisions, in Ramos v. Louisiana.

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