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Reformers' Views of the Jury (From Jury - Proceedings of Seminar on The Jury, 20-22 May 1986, P 119-128, 1986, Dennis Challinger, ed. - See NCJ-103890)

NCJ Number
P Byrne
Date Published
10 pages
This paper comments on three issues considered in the New South Wales Law Reform Commission's report on the jury in a criminal trial: peremptory challenges in jury selection, the use of juries in complex trials, and jury unanimity.
The commission has recommended that the number of peremptory challenges in jury selection be reduced to three for all offenses. The commission also recommends that the prosecutor inform the jury panel of the basic facts of the case and the names of prosecution witnesses prior to the selection process. The judge would then invite any member of the jury panel who feels unable to give impartial consideration of the base to apply for an excuse from jury service. When the judge deems appropriate, members of certain occupations or residents of certain neighborhoods may be automatically excused because of likely bias. These procedures are appropriate to increase the likelihood of an impartial jury. Although there has been some support for abolishing juries in complex criminal cases, notably white-collar cases, there is no empirical evidence that jury decisions in such cases are flawed. Jury trials in complex cases ensure that public perceptions of morality enter into the decisions and that the evidence presented is intelligible to the general public. Majority instead of unanimous jury verdicts are inappropriate since a nonunanimous verdict implies the existence of reasonable doubt. Also, the incidence of 'hung' juries in New South Wales has always been low. 19 footnotes.


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