VITAL IMPORTANCE OF THE RIGHT TO A JURY
(WITH BIBLE BASED INSIGHTS)
THE RIGHT TO A JURY TRIAL IS A
U.S. CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHT.
"In all criminal
prosecutions, the accused shall
enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury…”
Constitution, 6th Amendment
"In Suits at common law, where the value in
controversy shall exceed twenty dollars, the right of trial by jury
shall be preserved…”
Constitution, 7th Amendment
ADVANTAGES OF A JURY SYSTEM
Jurors are far less subject to bribery because
jurors are unknown to the contesting parties and/or their attorneys
until they are called into the jury-box.
The Bible commands judges not to take bribes (Exodus 23:8, Deuteronomy 16:19).
But judges at times disobeyed this command (Micah 3:11, Micah 7:3, 1 Samuel 8:3).
Thus, justice was perverted (Deuteronomy
16:19, 1 Samuel 8:3, Proverbs 17:23).
But, twelve adult men and women taken by random
selection from a cross-section of the population will almost certainly
NOT ALL be dishonest. Most criminal laws require a unanimous
guilty verdict to convict the accused.
At common law, the English jury system typically used twelve
jurors. Most juries in the U.S.A. have twelve jurors. It is
possible that this number was chosen based on Jesus Christ choosing 12
apostles in the Bible's New Testament and/or the 12 tribes of Israel in
the Old Testament (Luke 22:14, Luke
22:30, Matthew 10:1-4, Exodus 24:4, Joshua 4:2). But
some states use as few as six jurors. In Ballew v. Georgia 435
U.S. 223 (1978), the U.S. Supreme Court stated that a
five member jury is too small to decide a case fairly.
"…For centuries the jury has consisted of 12 men. In
'Guide to English Juries' (1682) it is said 'In analogy of late the
jury is reduced to the number of 12, like the prophets were 12 to
foretell the truth, the Apostles 12 to preach the truth; the
discoverers 12, sent into Canaan to seek and report the truth; and the
stones 12 that the heavenly Jerusalem is built on.'" (Biblical Law by H.B. Clark, 1944
edition, page 293, note 50.
Jurors are selected, thus elected, but their tenure is
temporary…unlike certain career judges and politicians.
[In the ancient Hebrew
text, the 12 minor prophets
were one book called “The Twelve”) 1- Hosea, 2- Joel, 3- Amos, 4-
Obadiah, 5- Jonah, 6- Micah, 7- Nahum, 8- Habakkuk, 9- Zephaniah, 10-
Haggai, 11- Zechariah, and 12- Malachi. The 12 Apostles (Matthew 10:2-4, Luke 6:13-16).
The 12 Discovers (Numbers 13:1-33). The 12 Stones (Revelation 21:14)].
"The grand solid merit of jury trial is that the
jurors...are selected at the last moment from the multitude of
citizens. They cannot be known beforehand, and they melt back into the
multitude after each trial."
Henry Wigmore (1924)
Take away the right to a trial by jury, and tyranny
and crime have greater opportunity to increase, grow, multiply and
It is so much harder to “bribe, blackmail or coerce” a jury of twelve
citizens than to do so to one judge.
Note: I am not opining that judges are easily
bribed or coerced. It is just that it is more difficult to do so
with a jury than a judge!
U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice William Rehnquist
“[W]hat many of those who
oppose the use of juries in civil trials seem to ignore [is that [t]he
founders of our Nation considered the right of trial by jury in civil
cases an important bulwark against tyranny and corruption, a safeguard
too precious to be left to the whim of the sovereign, or, it might be
added, to that of the judiciary.”
Hosiery Co. v. Shore
(1979) 439 U.S. 322, 343
"Trial by jury is our fence and protection against
all frauds and surprises and against all storms of power."
John Maynard, Sergeant at Law (1689)
Pure Democracy and
The jury is democracy in its purist form…a
government of the people, by the people, and for the people…common
folk, yes, everyday citizens, a cross-section of society, elected and
selected into office of jurors to, with their collective wisdom, rule
on the facts of the case. Next to voting, no other activity is as
participatory. Jury duty has a collateral benefit of
educating jurors about the legal process.
The right to jury trial by one’s peers is a
“cornerstone of the individual freedoms guaranteed by the Bill of
Rights in the U.S. Constitution.” In criminal cases, the
government cannot take away one’s “right to life, liberty, or property”
until all twelve fellow citizens determine that one is guilty beyond a
reasonable doubt. In civil cases, the jury is to be “the
community’s conscience and common sense in resolving disputes.”
Juries are able to privately deliberate with minimal
government interference. Attempts by government and its officials to
interfere with jury deliberations are unacceptable.
WHAT ABOUT BAD JURY VERDICTS?
While jurors are typically carefully screened by the
trial lawyers, they have prejudices and propensities that some lawyers
seek to manipulate. Jurors are fallible. But, cases can be
appealed. Further, in limited
circumstances, judges can overturn a jury’s verdict [i.e., Judgment
Notwithstanding the Verdict (“JNOV”)].
Many attorneys and those "in the know" recognize that, based on the
admissible evidence presented in court and the legal definitions
provided, juries almost always "get it right."
But, regarding our perception of troubling jury
verdicts, often what we don’t know is that we don’t know. We
don’t hear all of the evidence presented. The jury does. We don’t
see the witnesses demeanors. But the jury does. “We see in
the mirror dimly…” (1 Corinthians
13:12). What we get is the media’s oftentimes distorted,
ratings-driven, or agenda-driven spin. See The
McTruth About the McDonald's Coffee Burn Case.
Further, in civil cases, giant money damages awards
tend to be awarded in only the most egregious cases and the most
serious harms. But the rare outrageous verdicts tend to be
reported by the media, while rarely reported are the defense verdicts
where the injured party loses the case.
ORIGINS OF A JURY TRIAL?
Are there jury trials in the Bible?
The right of a trial by jury is a U.S.
constitutional right. It is not an expressly Biblical mandated
Under the Old Testament Mosaic Law, guilt was
determined by judges rather than juries. Further, the Roman
courts of Jesus time also utilized judges and not juries.
"In ancient times, court was held at the gate of the
city or town, where all public business was transacted before the
elders and in the presence of all who came and went. The gate was
known as the 'judgment place,' and the judge sat there upon the
'judgment-seat,' the people standing before him." (Biblical Law by H.B. Clark, 1944
edition, page 279).
16:18, Amos 5:15.
"The ancient trial before elders was the forerunner
of the trial by jury, which became established in England
after 1066...” (Biblical Law
by H.B. Clark, 1944 edition, page 293, note 50.
The Apostle Paul advocated private mediation and
arbitration (private trial) before by a selected wise Christian to
judge the legal civil disputes that occurred between fellow Christians (1 Corinthians 6:1-8). See
article regarding Christian
v. Christian disputes. See
also how separation of church and state doctrines keep certain church
out of public courts (Intra-Church
Thus, while a judge without a jury based system
works well if the judge is fair, impartial, and does not take bribes, a
jury system is an effective means for minimizing the risk and the
breadth of such corruption.
RIGHT TO A JURY TRIAL APPEARS TO BE ERODING.
Juror rights seem to be eroding a little more all the time. For
example, take many employees… Many employers have newly hired employees
sign an "arbitration agreement.” The "agreement" is verbose and riddled
with legalese. Eager to start working, many employees don’t read
the "agreement" which is intermingled in a slew of other documents and
Unwittingly, they have given up their Constitutional right to a jury
The elimination of jury trials will not occur at one time. Rather, the
right will slowly be eroded in piecemeal fashion. For example, a
growing number of states have taken away the right to jury trial in DUI
(driving under the influence) type of cases, even though such charges
may lead to jail time as well as fines and penalties.
Rulings: In violation of the express terms of the U.S.
Constitution (ignoring the words “in all criminal prosecutions…”), the
U.S. Supreme Court held that a state does not have to provide a
jury trial is the defendant faces less than six months in prison. See Baldwin v. New York, 399 U.S. 66
(1970) and Williams v. Florida,
399 U.S. 78 (1970). The downside to not having a right to a jury
in such cases, "onerous though they may be, may be outweighed by the
benefits that result from speedy and inexpensive nonjury
adjudications." Blanton v. City of
North Las Vegas, 489 U.S. 538 (1989).
Non-Jury Types of
Cases: Further, in disputes with the I.R.S., E.P.A. and
many other regulatory agencies, the case is typically heard by an
administrative law judge employed by the same agency that one has a
There is no right to a jury, as for example,
military criminal justice, as well as certain other types of cases.
AGAINST THE RIGHT TO A TRIAL BY JURY:
Too Many Trials:
There are too many trials. Many trials regard small matters
or petty offenses not worthy of time and expense of a jury trial.
Court calendars are overcrowded. Often, due to overload of the
court system, trials are delayed months or years.
In cases involving difficult questions of law or complex facts, judges
or expert panels are better equipped to make a determination. For
example, in an antitrust case, stock manipulation, or a patent dispute,
can the average citizen truly comprehend the economic, scientific,
and/or accounting issues involved?
Too Much Time and
Money: "Bench trials" where no jury is involved, take less
time. They cost less taxpayer money. And they may be
reviewed and potentially overturned by appellate courts.
Juries are notoriously fickle, and can more easily be manipulated by
crafty attorneys compared to a judge.
ARGUMENTS IN FAVOR OF A JURY TRIAL RIGHT:
See section above regarding the “SOCIETAL ADVANTAGES OF A JURY SYSTEM”
for compelling arguments in favor of the jury trial right.
Judge Only Optional: Additionally,
for those who believe one judge is better, if both sides
to a dispute agree, that option is available.
Society needs to meaningfully participate in a democratic form of
government. Voting is one way to participate. Jury
service is another way to responsibly participate.
Constitutional Rights: “If Americans allow those in power to
bypass trial by jury, that concept -- in fact, all of our Bill of
Rights -- will be in danger of extinction.” It’s the so-called
“Those who wrote our constitutions knew from history and experience
that …[p]roviding an accused with the right trial by a jury of his
peers gave him an inestimable safeguard against the corrupt or
overzealous prosecutor and against the compliant, biased, or eccentric
judge.” Duncan v. Louisiana
391 U.S. 145 (1968).
PRO-JURY TRIAL QUOTES
"Trial by jury is the most rational and effective
method for discovering the truth." Sir John Fortescue, Chief Justice of the
King's Bench (1468)
"Trial by jury is a wise distribution of power which
exceeds all other modes of trial." Edward Coke, Chief Justice of Common Pleas
"The right of trial by jury cannot be guarded with
too much vigilance, nor defended with too much ardor. If the people
surrender it, their other rights will inevitably follow." Joseph Towers (1764)
"Representative government and trial by jury are the
heart and lungs of liberty." John
"You ought to be extremely cautious, watchful,
jealous of your liberty; for instead of securing your rights, you may
lose them forever..." Patrick
"Trial by jury in civil cases is as essential to
secure the liberty of the people as any one of the pre-existent rights
of nature." James Madison
"I consider trial by jury as the only anchor ever
yet imagined by man, by which a government can be held to the
principles of its constitution." Thomas Jefferson (1801)
"...Trial by jury cannot be corrupted unless the
whole body of the people be corrupt... Instances of perverse or
dishonest verdicts there will be, because the attribute of perfection
does not belong to any human institution. ..." J. Sydney Taylor (1838)
"Illegitimate and unconstitutional practices get
their footing . . . by silent approaches and slight deviations from
legal modes of procedure ... It is [our] duty ... to be watchful for
the constitutional rights of the citizen, and against any stealthy
encroachments thereon..." Justice
"We may never have tyrants, . . . but if we should
have them, they will seek to accomplish the downfall of free
government, not by directly overriding the Constitution, but by using
the forms of law to strangle and subvert its spirit." Charles S. May (1875)
"The jury system is the handmaid of freedom…Rome,
Sparta and Carthage fell because they did not know it, let not England
and America fall because they threw it away." Charles S. May (1875)
"Trial by jury is essentially a child of freedom.
... It is the greatest safeguard of liberty, and the greatest protector
of its privileges." Sam M.
Wolfe, A Defense of the Jury (1911)
"Trial by jury must and shall be preserved! Amidst
the throng of crude sacrilegisms . . . that assail us nowadays in the
legal sanctuary, none is more shortsighted, none more dangerous, than
the proposal to abolish trial by jury." John Henry Wigmore (1925)
"Trial by jury must be preserved. It is the best
system ever invented for a free people in the world's history." John Henry Wigmore (1929)
". . . The popular attitude toward the
administration of justice should be one of respect and confidence.
Bureaucratic, purely official justice, can never receive such
confidence. The one way to secure it is to give the citizen-body itself
a share in the administration of justice. And that is what jury-trial
does." John Henry Wigmore
"The first ten amendments to the Constitution
safeguard [those] fundamental rights . . . [that] the framers of the
Bill of Rights regard[ed as] certain liberties ... so vital that
legislative denial of them should be specifically foreclosed..." Justice George Sutherland (1937)
Copyright 2013 by M.B. Tozer
DISCLAIMER: This document is for educational purposes
only. It does not constitute legal advice. This document provides
general information, which may or may not be correct, complete or
current at the time of reading. This information is not provided in the
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