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Limitations on Trial by Jury

NCJ Number
International Review of Penal Law Volume: 72 Issue: 1-2 Dated: 2001 Pages: 603-609
Peter Duff
Date Published
7 pages
This article discusses the limitations of the jury system.
One of the most interesting things about jury trial is how infrequently it actually takes place given the enormous significance given to it by the public. The devices used to restrict the number of jury trials are generally regarded as legitimate. The right to trial by jury may be limited by the law itself, prosecutorial discretion, judicial decision, and defense waiver. Most jurisdictions adopt various combinations of some or all of these strategies. In most jurisdictions, procedural criminal law dictates that only a small minority of serious crimes are eligible for trial by jury. Otherwise, the criminal justice process would not be able to cope with the volume of work and the expense would be huge. There are two ways in which the prosecutor may play a role in determining the proportion and number of jury trials: by playing a direct role in selecting the mode of trial, and plea-bargaining. In some jurisdictions, the court has a say in determining whether there should be the possibility of trial by jury. Magistrates will take into consideration the nature of the case, their sentencing powers, and other factors set out in the relevant legislation. It is relatively uncommon to give the accused the right to determine the mode of trial. The present trend in the common law jurisdictions is towards further reducing the number of jury trials by increasing the scope of these limitations. These attempts to cut costs are often very controversial and portrayed as an attack on the integrity of the institution of trial by jury. The gap between jury practice and jury ideology can be difficult to manage because the legitimacy of the varying regimes is always vulnerable to change. 13 footnotes, 12 references