Disadvantages of the Jury System

Introduction

Court participation of jurors is one of the most debatable institutes of criminal proceedings. Since its introduction, it is subjected to the harsh criticism from legal professionals, citizens and even political figures. The vast majority of legal practitioners believe that the advantages of the jury system are insignificant; meanwhile, their threat to justice is substantial (Devine 2012). Housewives who do not know the law and have no idea about the concept of law decide the destiny of a man. Indeed, the jury system has its pros and cons. However, in practice, its disadvantages outweigh its advantages to a considerable degree.

Advantages and Disadvantages

Discussions on advantages and disadvantages of a jury trial as well as its objectivity do not cease in the countries, where this system is practiced for centuries. Each of the parties may have both supporting and opposing arguments. There are a plenty of contradictions in terms of the rights of jurors and their activities. A jury trial cannot be regarded as a panacea for solving all the complex problems faced by the modern state in the judicial field. However, at the same time, the supporters of the jury system argue that in the current circumstances, a jury trial can improve the quality of criminal investigations, ensure the independence, objectivity, and competitiveness of the process, strengthen the judicial authority and ultimately promote the development of the rule of law and the construction of other democratic institutions.

Two main advantages are attributed to a trial by jury. Firstly, it is called a moral court. There are facts and circumstances not foreseen by the legislator. It is very difficult for the judge to apply the same regulations of a positive law to them. No matter how great is foresight and knowledge of the future that the legislator has, the infinite variety of a human nature can never be limited to the framework of criminal code articles. The jury should be a tool against this considerable difficulty. The people who uncontrollably judge may correct imperfect laws by their verdicts (Devine 2012). The second legal merit of the jury is the ability to follow “inner conviction”, “the promptings of feelings”, “conscience” in their decisions. However, it happens according to the criteria and allegations of professional judges (Devine 2012).

Moreover, a jury trial is an expensive and long process. Jurors are paid a salary for each day of the meeting. Remembering large amounts of the remuneration for the jury, it should be said that maintaining of such a feature as the jury system is a burden that falls on the shoulders of taxpayers. Thus, the issue of its effectiveness and necessity is an extremely important point. The system has a number of disadvantages which greatly outweigh its advantages.

The Lack of Competence

The jury is made up of people who do not have legal knowledge in general, or, even worse, have the fragmentary crumbs of knowledge that numerous TV shows provide, which not always are consistent with the truth. Sometimes, the jury simply cannot understand the case. For example, for a housewife, it can be difficult to objectively consider the case on charges of tax evasion and other economic crimes.

In addition, prosecutors themselves are not ready for jury trials. Acquittals often are imposed due to the inability of prosecutors to correctly state and convey the essence of the case to the jury in a clear way. State prosecutors are talking to them as to legal professionals. As a result, ordinary people do not understand anything. However, even for professional investigators, sometimes, it is difficult to investigate such cases. The issue of education of the jury designed to resolve the case is virtually given at the discretion of the court system and in the conscience of the jurors themselves (Harvey 2015).

The legislator is not interested in the ability o jurors to make intelligent decisions in general, and their moral and psychological readiness to take responsible decisions, as well. Finally, it should be said that the criminal law is highly difficult to understand. Moreover, such categories as the participation, implication in the crime, voluntary renunciation of the commission of the offense, circumstances that eliminate or mitigate the criminal prosecution, as well as the presence of insanity are especially difficult for the understanding of a non-specialist. This fact causes perverse decisions. It is clear in R v Kronlid and others. The defendants were acquitted, since the jury was unable to understand the essence of their crime. They were admitted in causing a huge damage to the plane. However, they justified this action telling that they prevent the usage of it for attacks against people (Martin & Lancer 2015).

Challenge Procedure for Prospective Jurors

In addition, the process of selection of jurors has proven to be very difficult. As the statistics shows each of the four processes considered by a jury lasts a few months. Furthermore, people with a higher education and greater life experiences are rarely in the composition of the jury. A significant loss of time with the irrelevant material compensation makes socially active people not to respond to the summons (Harvey 2015). The challenge procedure for candidates for the jury does not look elaborate. Citizens getting in a jury are invited as a result of a random sample. Many of them are annoyed by this fact, blaming the defendant for this. Thus, people are obviously opposed to the defendant.

The Jury is Subjected to Influence

The main opponents of the jury are prosecutors and investigators. They find the vulnerability of people courts to be the main factor of its inefficiency. One can often hear that judges are ordinary citizens. Hence, they are not protected against a certain pressure and influence. This problem has clearly manifested itself in the case R v McKenna (1965). The jurors were subjected to the pressure and influence of the judge. He said that they would stay for the whole night locked in the meeting room if they were unable to make the choice and tell their decision immediately. As a result, the jury decided that the defendant was guilty under the pressure without a deep consideration of the case (Martin & Lancer 2015).

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Doubtful Impartiality of Jury

There is another important factor. In a multinational country, it is very difficult to track the fact of impartiality of the jury. In some regions, clan and family ties are highly developed. Thus, the fairness and impartiality of judgment, which shall be made in respect of a cousin or brother can be hardly expected. The bias towards defendants or victims, depending on whether they are local or not, is a very serious argument against the effectiveness and fairness of a trial by jury, whereas it includes the concepts of race, ethnicity, religion and other features (Harvey 2015). For example, if the jurors are white, meanwhile, the victims are African-Americans, and defendants are also white, the objectivity of jury can be questioned.

The Emotional Component within Decision Making

The disadvantages of a jury trial can be expressed in terms of increasing the emotional component in the decision. It manifests itself in individual cases, which are typical for the judicial practice of a trial by jury in general. As a rule, the jury system is blamed for the fact that it does not act in accordance with the law and the truth, but makes a decision contrary to the apparent proofs of the guilt. However, it must be understood that the court by jury determines the guilt of a person distinctively from a professional judge, because in order to determine a person’s guilt, the jury should note the existence of the evil deed (Neubauer & Fradella 2016).

Moreover, the jurors’ ability to makke an informed decision is doubtful. In order to be able to make an objective and impartial verdict, jurors must be quite thoroughly familiar with the materials of the case. However, the concept is already violated, when the jury is formed. The chairman is obliged to inform them only the sparing and sparse information about the case under consideration. At the same time, the legislator has extremely limited the possibilities of the jury in terms of the collection and receipt of the factual information (especially legal), which is necessary for the appropriate decision-making (Neubauer & Fradella 2016).

One of the drawbacks of the jury associated with an emotional factor is the fact that ordinary people with ordinary consciousness make decisions not on the basis of the law, but on the basis of emotions and personal experiences. In particular, former and current prosecutors believe that the decision of the jury will largely depend on the speeches of lawyers and the defendant’s ability to cause a pity and compassion, but not on the cold rational analysis of the past event and a realistic assessment of the offense (Neubauer & Fradella 2016). Sometimes, being a clever orator, the lawyer may present a moving speech that will result in the jury justifyig the killer.

Lack of Responsibility of Jury

Opponents of the jury trial offer an argument that the jurors are irresponsible, since unlike the professional judges, they are not responsible for the decisions that were taken. Moreover, the acquittal, even illegal decisions cannot be cancelled. Therefore, meanwhile a professional judge can get at least a disciplinary action or even lose his post in the event of evidence of the misconduct in this regard, the jurors are not at risk. Thus, the final verdict can only be based on their integrity (Neubauer & Fradella 2016).

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In addition, if the judge does not appear at the hearing or upsets it, then this is a great emergency as the negative consequences in his regard will follow. At the same time, in the similar situation,  the jury will not experience any significant punishment. Their absence will cause only a need to replace the respective member of the jury, and the trial will start again, which complicates the process and burdens on others.

Secrecy

Certain juries are idle people, senior citizens, who are willing to take part in the court, not taking into account the tragedy, which their wrong decision can lead to. The secrecy provided to the jury does not allow to establish whether each of them is able to fully understand the materials of the case as well as the basis for their decision making. Meeting in the jury room, the juries frequently do not listen to those who submit their voices in defence of the logic and justice, but to those who loudly and confidently present their position. This is seen in the case Connor and Rollock (2004). Five days later, after the jury had made a verdict guilty, one of them wrote to Crown Court telling that in the jury room, the jurors were not considering whether one or another defendant had committed the stabbing. They decided to blame both of them in order to ‘teach them a lesson’ (Martin & Lancer 2015).

Conclusion

Consequently, one can say that the effectiveness and democracy of the jury system is an extremely doubtful issue. It has certain advantages and disadvantages. However, the purpose of justice, which is the inevitability of punishment, cannot be achieved due to the fact that the justice problem is solved by non-professionals. Moreover, the jury comprising of ordinary people is prone to make doubtful decisions due to the lack of competence and excessive emotionality. Furthermore, the lack of responsibility and impartiality of the jury are also the arguments against the effectiveness and democracy of the jury trial. Thus, the amount of benefits from such a trial is substantially less than that of harm.

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