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What is a Jury Trial?

The number of jurors in a civil trial can vary by state.
A jury trial uses a group of peers in addition to a judge.
Jury trials might be covered by local media depending on the severity of the crime.
The Seventh Amendment guarantees a the right to a jury trial in both criminal cases and federal civil cases for claims exceeding $20.
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  • Written By: Sheri Cyprus
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 19 November 2014
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A jury trial is a criminal or civil trial. In the United States, there are usually 12 jurors in a criminal trial. The number of jurors in a civil trial depends on the state. Jury members are first chosen from the general population on a random basis. Then, each side of the case questions potential jurors to reveal any biases that may interfere with a juror member’s ability to determine guilt or innocence based on the facts presented in a case. This questioning process is known as voir dire which is an French term that means "to speak the truth."

Lawyers can refuse prospective jurors for cause that they seem biased as well as refuse a set limit of juror prospects for no reason. A refusal without a reason given is called peremptory. After the jury is selected, the trial begins with opening arguments. Each side receives the opportunity to persuasively inform the jury about the evidence they will present and their position on it.

The presentation of evidence in a jury trial follows opening arguments. The defense may or may not present evidence. In most cases, the defense lawyer will present it. After all of the evidence is presented, closing arguments are made and then the jury deliberates to reach a verdict. There is no set way for the jury to discuss the case in order to reach a decision.

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All jury members are placed in a locked room to reach a verdict based on the evidence presented. They are reminded to base their verdict on the facts. The jury room is private and when the verdict is ready to be announced, jury members do not explain how they reached their decision.

Some people say it’s better to try a case in front of a judge rather than have a jury trial. They argue that jurors may be easily swayed by emotion even when they are reminded to base the verdict on evidence and facts. Yet others point out that the judge still decides on the facts to be presented.

The accused may waive his or her right to a jury trial in favor of a trial by judge, called a bench trial, with no jury. The choice between having a jury trial or a bench trial can be a very difficult one for the accused to make.

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suntan12
Post 3

SauteePan-I know that jury trials do make a difference. This is especially true when the jury has a sympatric figure and can view the defendant that way.

For example, my friend who is a legal aid attorney for people struggling with their rent payments in New York City or may be unlawfully evicted use the service.

They receive free legal advice and often the cases go to trial. This one involved an elderly women who was living alone with her cats was facing an unlawful eviction because the owner wanted to rent out the unit to someone else for more money.

This unit was rent controlled and the elderly woman lived in the apartment for over forty years. Needless to say this was an excellent case to bring to trial because they jury fell in love with the elderly woman and felt sorry for her.

It is easy to see how she won her case and the attorney for the owner of the building should have never let this case go to trial.

SauteePan
Post 2

Crispety- A jury trial in civil cases really is given a lower standard in which to judge the defendant. In a criminal case for example, there has to be a unanimous verdict in order to convict someone.

In a civil case the evidence has to be a preponderance of guilt or more than 50% likely to have committed the crime.

This is why it is much easier to convict someone in a civil trial then a criminal trial. The reason is simple. In a criminal trial the defendant is facing incarceration and may have their freedom taken away.

Since this is so serious the evidence criteria has to be higher. One of the longest jury trials, the OJ Simpsons murder trial that lasted almost one year, was followed by a civil jury trial.

This litigation trial ended in a conviction and an award of over thirty million dollars for the Goldman family. Jury trial in civil cases usually does not get as much attention as this case got.

Crispety
Post 1

A jury trial vs. judge trial is significantly different. In the United States all defendants charged with a crime are entitled to be tried by a jury of their peers.

But not all countries have this policy. In Italy and France there is a judge trial and not a jury trial.

In these countries a judge hears the case and then decides the fate of the defendant. Many feel that this form of justice is unfair and tends to be subjective.

Here the criminal lawyers really have more pressure to get their client acquitted. Since there is no possible demand for jury trial, they really have a higher standard in which they must perform.

This is what happened to Amanda Moxy, who was charged with murder in Italy. She had a trial by judge and the judge convicted her of murder and she has to serve over twenty-five years in prison.

With a trial by judge there tends to be more bias which is why a jury trial is better.

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