The jury system was instituted in the United States so that instead of a judge determining a person’s sentence, a group of peers in that community would do so. Something magical happens when you put a group of people into a room and let them hear a legal case. The advantage here is that a personal bias can be reduced in sentencing, but the disadvantage is that a group of biased people could hand down an unjust sentence.
The Pros of the Jury System
1. It is a judgment that the general public is willing to accept.
If one person is rendering a judgment, it is much easier to question their authority to make that decision. Put a group of people in a room to make that decision and it becomes easier to accept their outcome.
2. There is a certain level of certainty.
Appeals are available in most nations after a verdict by a jury, but the actual decision-making process is almost never a grounds for appeal as it would be for a single judge. This provides some certainty to the outcome of a jury trial, no matter what the verdict happens to be.
3. It protects jurors.
It is against the law to attempt to influence a juror in some way. Threatening, intimidation, and other forms of negative contact created additional charges.
The Cons of the Jury System
1. Most juries don’t just get selected randomly.
Although the jury duty notifications bring in a random group to the courthouse, both sides of a case have the right in most nations to strike a certain number of jurors from the case to get to the needed number. This means it really isn’t random.
2. Long trials usually create hasty verdicts.
People are forced to interrupt their lives for a trial. When that trial runs for an extended period of time, those in the jury are ready to get life back to normal. A hasty verdict that doesn’t really care about justice tends to be the outcome and this can put an innocent person behind bars.
3. Most jurors don’t have a background in law.
If there is a charming, influential presentation in court, then that alone may be enough to create sufficient reasonable doubt. Juries are supposed to look for facts, but a good presentation or their own emotions may cause them to render a verdict that really isn’t just.
The pros and cons of the jury system show that this is one of the fairest methods of enforcing the law that we currently know. No system of justice is 100% perfect, so there will always be errors. The safety measures in place, however, make the jury system rather reliable.