Prior to the American Revolution, English colonists in America expected government respect for the same rights that they enjoyed in England, including due process and jury rights. They grew intolerant of the government under which they lived as these rights were more a. In the Declaration of Independence, dissidents explicitly list the denial of the benefits of trial by jury among their grievances against the king.
Since the founding of the United States, governments at all levels have chipped away at many of our rights that the founders intended to be protected by the Constitution, including the Bill of Rights. In other cases, where these founding documents did not guarantee and uphold liberty and justice for all, wider legal recognition of these rights has often been established through Constitutional amendments, legislation, and court precedent. The landscape for jury rights has changed significantly since the founding of the United States. Where do our jury rights stand today?
It is time for a health check.
To do exactly that, FIJA has created the Jury Health Project. We will be looking at numerous aspects indicative of the health or lack thereof of jury systems nationwide. We will evaluate the rules for and functionality in practice of juries at the federal level, in all fifty states, and in Washington, D.C. with respect to each of these jury health indicators.
FIJA Fact Finder
FIJA will publish the results of these evaluations in a series of briefing papers entitled FIJA Fact Finder, in infographic format, and through other means in order to effectively communicate the status of juries nationwide with respect to each of these key indicators. These briefing papers will inform people regarding the status of their rights to trial by jury as well as their rights when serving as jurors.
A sampling of the questions we will be considering include:
➤ Is a unanimous verdict required for criminal conviction?
➤ How many jurors is the defendant guaranteed in a trial by jury?
➤ When is the accused individual considered eligible for trial by jury?
➤ Are jurors allowed to take notes during a trial?
➤ Are jurors allowed to ask questions during a trial?
➤ Are juveniles legally considered to have the right to trial by jury?
➤ Are jurors involved in sentencing?
➤ What are the requirements for a sentence recommendation by a jury in capital case?
➤ Is the jury’s recommended sentence in a capital case legally binding?
➤ and many others.
Jury Health Index
The long-term goal of the Jury Health Project is to identify a set of key jury health indicators, evaluate all of the jury systems identified above with respect to each of these indicators, weight each of these indicators appropriately, and produce a Jury Health Index with which to rate each of these systems, rank them with respect to one another, and to track the health of our jury systems over time. Once developed, we intend for this to become a signature piece of scholarship updated periodically by FIJA to fully inform everyone about the state of jury rights in the United States and to serve as an educational resource for those involved in jury issues.