Justification for Juries: A Comparative Perspective on Models of Jury Composition

This Note compares the American jury model, where a group of citizens deliberates, with the European model, where citizens and judges deliberate together. It weighs the benefits and detriments of each model and concludes that the American jury model is superior because it works better in practice. It demonstrates that all-citizen juries are competent—they deliver verdicts with which judges agree, handle complex cases, do not demonstrate bias toward or against certain parties, and determine damages reliably. In addition, serving on a jury of one’s peers has been linked to increased civic participation, and juries have the power of nullification. In contrast, the European model seems like a good idea in theory but does not work well in practice because judges tend to dominate deliberations, which renders citizen participation meaningless.This Note also addresses one of the disadvantages of the American jury model—the widespread negative public perception of juries, which results, in part, from verdicts that appear not to make sense. Examples include the McDonald’s coffee spill case, the acquittal of O.J. Simpson, and, most recently, the acquittal of Casey Anthony. To combat this negative public image, this Note recommends borrowing a feature of many European jury systems called “verdict justification,” wherein a jury is required to answer a series of questions or provide a brief rationale for its verdict. This Note argues that this modification to the American jury system could improve a jury’s accountability to the public as well as help lawyers and parties better understand a jury’s decision.

The full text of this Note is available to download as a PDF.