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In suits at Common Law where the value in controversy shall exceed twenty dollars, the right of trial by jury shall be preserved, and no fact tried by.

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Presentation on theme: "In suits at Common Law where the value in controversy shall exceed twenty dollars, the right of trial by jury shall be preserved, and no fact tried by."— Presentation transcript:

1 In suits at Common Law where the value in controversy shall exceed twenty dollars, the right of trial by jury shall be preserved, and no fact tried by a jury, shall be otherwise reexamined in any court of the United States, than according to the rules of the common law.

2 Greek History The earliest use of juries can be traced back to ancient Greece, where around 400 B.C., citizens of Athens (males over 30 years of age) listened to the arguments of alleged wrongdoers. Aristotle explained that these men were to apply their understanding of “general justice” and not to interpret the law. These juries were composed of hundreds of volunteers who would listen to evidence from both sides and reach a judgment The Athenians believed that these jury trials were the best way to reach a judgment and to ensure that the community’s sense of justice would prevail

3 English History The modern jury system has its roots in English history. In England, there were two general methods of trial used to determine the innocence or guilt of accused persons. Trial by oath which required the accused person to swear an oath to God attesting to his or her innocence. In these medieval years, a person’s oath meant a great deal, as fear of God’s wrath was considered enough to compel honest testimony.

4 English History If others challenged the oath of the accused by swearing an oath of their own, a compurgation was necessary. The accused had to bring 11 supporters called compurgators who would be willing to take an oath on behalf of the accused. These compurgators served as character witnesses attesting to the fact that the accused was a trustworthy person. However, if the accused was found to be guilty, the compurgators could also be punished. As a result, it became difficult for many accused to find enough compurgators willing to swear to their character. Those accused without enough compurgators or who were repeat offenders were then subjected to the second method of trial, trial by ordeal.

5 American History By the time of the colonization of America, the right to trial by jury had come to be viewed as an essential protection for an individual accused of a crime. In fact, the right to a jury trial was so important that the colonists listed it among the grievances denied by King George III in the Declaration of Independence: “for depriving us in many cases, the benefits of trial by jury.” After winning their independence, the Founders formally affirmed the right to a fair and impartial trial by a jury of one’s peers in both the Sixth and Seventh Amendments to the U.S. Constitution. These amendments guaranteed that the jury system would take root as a critical component of the American legal system and would serve to ensure the basic freedoms that we enjoy today.

6 The Right to a Jury Trial in the United States The extent to which the jury trial is utilized in both criminal and civil cases is unique to the United States of America. Approximately 90% of all jury trials in the world take place in America. The right to a trial of one’s peers is a constitutionally protected right that has become ingrained in America’s legal system and in the mind of the American public.

7 Sixth Amendment The Sixth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution guarantees the right of a jury trial to defendants who are being prosecuted for allegedly committing crimes, as well as a host of other rights critical to ensuring a fair trial: 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, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses in his favor, and to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defense.

8 Seventh Amendment The Seventh Amendment to the U.S. Constitution extends the right to a jury trial to civil disputes. In suits at common law, where the value in controversy shall exceed twenty dollars, the right of trial by jury shall be preserved, and no fact tried by a jury shall be otherwise reexamined in any Court of the United States, than according to the rules of the common law.

9 Jury Trials Thus, jury trials take place in criminal and civil cases. In a criminal trial, the defendant is charged with offenses (crimes) against the government or against society as a whole. A civil trial involves the relationship between two citizens, between a citizen and a corporation, or between two corporations.

10 Jury Qualifications Qualifications for Jury Service Each state makes its own laws regarding the qualifications for serving on a jury. Most states require potential jurors to be at least 18 years old, to be a U.S. citizen, and to be able to understand English. People may be exempt from jury service by law, or be excused from jury service by the judge

11 Resources “Of Codes and Crowns—Merry Old England (from the Constitutional Rights Foundation)


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