From: The Free Dictionary
Ever wonder how juries got started?
Whose idea was it to put a group of our peers together and decide someone fate?
This article from Free Dictionary will answer those and other questions regarding our jury system.
In U.S. law, decisions in many civil and criminal trials are made by a jury. Considerable power is vested inthis traditional body of ordinary men and women, who are charged with deciding matters of fact and delivering a verdict of guilt or innocencebased on the evidence in a case. Derived from its historical counterpart in English CommonLaw by jury has had acentral role in U.S. courtrooms since the colonial era, and it is firmly established as a basic guarantee in the U.S.Constitution. Modern juries are the result of a long series of U.S. Supreme Court decisions that have interpreted thisconstitutional liberty and, in significant ways, extended it.
The historical roots of the jury date to the eighth century a.d. Long before becoming an impartial body,
during the reign of Charlemagne, juries interrogated prisoners. In the twelfth century, the Normans
brought the jury to England, where itsaccusatory function remained: Citizens acting as jurors were
required to come forward as witnesses and to give evidencebefore the monarch’s judges. Not until the
fourteenth century did jurors cease to be witnesses and begin to assume their modern role as triers of fact. This role was well established in British common law when settlers brought the tradition to America,
and after the United States declared its independence, all state constitutions guaranteed the right of jury trial incriminal cases.
Viewing the jury as central to the rights of the new nation, the Founders firmly established its role in the U.S. Constitution.They saw the jury as not only a benefit to the accused, but also as a check on the
judiciary , much as Congress exists as acheck on the Executive Branch. The Constitution establishes and safeguards the right to a trial by jury in four ways: Article III
establishes this right in federal criminal cases; the Fifth Amendment provides for grand juries, or panels that reviewcomplaints in criminal cases,
hear the evidence of the prosecutor, and decide whether to issue an indictment that will bringthe accusedperson to trial; the Sixth Amendment guarantees in serious federal criminal cases the right to trial by a petitjury, the most commonform of jury; and the Seventh Amendment provides for a jury trial in civil cases where the amount incontroversy exceeds $20.