A trial by jury is different from a trial by judge in that the defendant relies on a collection of people to interpret the facts and determine whether he is guilty or innocent of the charges presented. In order to serve a conviction, a majority of the jury must agree with the verdict. In a trial by judge, one person is left to determine both the verdict and the sentence. Trial by jury has a number of advantages, but also a few pitfalls.
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Because juries are comprised of regular people, their combined knowledge of the law is usually less deep than the knowledge of a judge. This means juries often reach verdicts not based on the hard, legal data surrounding the case, but on their emotional responses to the arguments posed by the defence and prosecution. This can be both a potential advantage and disadvantage, depending on the type of trial that they are overseeing.
The law prevents any investigation of jury deliberation, as these are intended to occur privately and away from the public eye. This can be an advantage in some cases, as juries can speak freely and argue the facts without fear of reprisal. However, it can also be a disadvantage, as no investigations are available for juries that have performed some sort of wrongdoing like making a decision based on racial or sexual bias.
Because race, class and education level are not even in every area of the country, jury selection can work for or against a potential defendant depending on where he lives. For example, some areas may end up fielding a jury of lower-educated individuals while others may find that their juries are primarily comprised of people from a certain religious group. Juries are intended to be diverse, but they can only work with what is around them. Local biases or racial majorities can have an incredible impact on the fate of a defendant.
Cost and time
Finding a jury for a trial is a time-consuming process in which the defence and prosecution must individually vet every potential jury member. This time spent can add legal costs for clients on both sides of the case. Additionally, juries are compensated for their time and may be sequestered to a hotel or other closed facility over the course of a long trial, meaning a much higher cost to taxpayers. Juries can also take days to render a verdict as infighting and disagreements must be resolved before the verdict can be finalised.
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