Jury (Anglo-Saxon legal system)

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A jury ( dt. [ ˈƷyːri ] or [ ʒyˈriː ], engl. [ ˈDʒʊɹi ]) is the entirety of the jury of a criminal case in the Anglo-American legal system .

In criminal proceedings, the grand jury decides on the indictment in the preliminary proceedings, the trial jury on the basis of the main hearing on the question of guilt. A coroner's jury may already be involved in an investigation into the cause of death of a person. A jury also decides in civil proceedings if the parties do not mutually rule this out. Under certain conditions, US case law considers such a waiver to be permissible.

The decision by a jury can be traced back to the 10th century under King Ethelred .

The jury is also known as a legal institution in other legal systems, for example in the USA , Canada , Belgium , Malta , France and Austria (so-called jury court ), but the competencies of the jury differ from country to country. In Germany there were juries until 1924 ; In Switzerland, the jury was abolished with the introduction of the Swiss Code of Criminal Procedure on January 1, 2011.


In England and the United States , there is a trial jury rarely twelve more people, which in England at least ten in the US, all jurors about the verdict ( verdict ) must be united. In Scotland there are 15 jurors, of which a simple majority of 8 votes is required. In addition, two substitutes are usually appointed who are present at the trial and who replace a jury in the event of unforeseen difficulties.

The jury should be as “unbiased” as possible. Accordingly, you must not have any prior knowledge of the case to be assessed. The selection of the jury can be very important for the outcome of the trial and is therefore taken very seriously by the public prosecutor and criminal defense . Only people on whom both sides agree will be appointed to the jury.

The jury is isolated from the outside world for the duration of a process so that no outside influence can occur. The jury can be compared to a black box : you don't know why or how it will decide. To compensate for this limited predictability and verifiability, there are strict rules of process and evidence that are intended to legitimize the wide-ranging competencies of the jury.

Decision-making power

Trial jury

The jury alone decides whether the accused is guilty or innocent. The result of your consultation after the taking of evidence is binding. Only the jury (not the judge) decides the facts.

Your decision is called verdict ( English [ ˈvɜ˞dɪkt ]) and must be confirmed by the judge . Exceptions apply for numerous claims in the area of equitable justice , equity ( Engl. [ Ɛkwɪti example, divorce or restraining orders]) fall.

It is not necessary for a jury to justify its decision. Since the members of the jury mostly have no legal knowledge at all, they receive legal instruction from the judge. However, it is the sole responsibility of the jury to apply the law (in the form of legal norms or judgments) to the facts. The jury therefore has a great task and responsibility in the jurisdiction. Very often the jury is reminded of their importance by the lawyers: “ You are the law! «(“ You are the law! ”).

A jury can also decide on the sentencing ; this depends on the respective legal system. In the United States, in some states the judge determines the sentence and in others the jury. The third possibility is for the jury to determine the sentence , whereby the judge has the right of veto and can revoke the sentence (but not the guilty / not guilty decision).


The judge is usually silent during the hearing. He only decides on the admission of applications and explains their duties to the jury. The judge presides over the jury process, but his competencies are lower than in continental European legal systems. Its main task is to ensure that the lawyers adhere to the procedural rules. As a rule, he cannot review the decision of the jury in retrospect or revoke the verdict - although there are exceptions under certain conditions; so has z. B. Texas State Judge Leonard Davis overturned the jury's verdict on a patent lawsuit against Apple .

Advantages of the jury system

The strength of collective decision-making is cited as one of the jury's advantages: several heads are better than one, and the opinion of the individual must be exposed to criticism from others. In this respect, the susceptibility to errors caused by a single decision maker can be balanced out by the majority.

The jury members come from all walks of life and represent a cross-section of society, which means that the jury decision ( jury verdict ) reflects the community values ​​and is also acceptable and acceptable for society. The individual citizen also benefits from participating in the jury: Fulfilling this civic duty ( jury duty ), along with the responsibility to pronounce the law, is a special life experience for many jury members.

The most important right of a jury, however, is to acquit a defendant in individual cases regardless of the evidence or the applicable laws, the so-called jury nullification , also conscientious acquittal , juror veto or jury pardon . One example is the controversial jury's acquittal in the murder trial of OJ Simpson .

Disadvantages of the jury system

The fact that the jury is the only judicial body with the power to decide on facts makes it difficult to reform the roles of judges and lawyers. The jury can decide at its own discretion (up to arbitrariness ), its members can be exposed to group pressure. The question also arises as to whether the jurors are sufficiently qualified to answer difficult legal questions. Another point of criticism is that the jury's decision is difficult to foresee and just as difficult to understand, as there is no obligation to give reasons for their judgment ( verdict ). This has far-reaching consequences for the appeal process. Since the jury members have to decide unanimously, at least in criminal proceedings, there is often a so-called “hung jury”, in which a unanimous decision cannot be brought about. The process then has to start again, which is very time-consuming. Another disadvantage is the time it takes to put together a suitable jury.


  • Arthur T. von Mehren and Peter L. Murray: The American Legal System , 2nd Edition, Cambridge University Press 2007
  • Marc Gerding: Trial by Jury. The probation of the English and US jury systems. An idea in the context of constitutional and social change. , Julius Jonscher Verlag Osnabrück 2007, ISBN 3-9811399-0-9

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Coroner's jury . Encyclopædia Britannica , accessed April 14, 2018.
  2. Jane Spencer: Companies Ask People To Waive Right to Jury Trial. After Years of Requiring Arbitration, Companies Return to the Court System - but With Conditions The Wall Street Journal , August 17, 2004
  3. Ian W. Siminoff: Jury Trial Waivers: A Better Alternative Than Arbitration? March 23, 2016
  4. Æthelred's Wantage code (III Atr) Early English Laws, accessed April 14, 2018
  5. JER Stephens: The Growth of Trial by Jury in England . Harvard Law Review 1896, pp. 150-160
  6. ^ Elisabeth Hausmann: The number of confessions is decreasing. April 12, 2011, accessed December 5, 2011 .
  7. Lorenz Frischknecht: One of the last jury trials. NZZ , March 16, 2010, accessed December 5, 2011 .
  8. Apple is spared a million dollar fine in the patent dispute. Welt Online , April 6, 2011, accessed December 5, 2011 .
  9. jok / dpa-AFX: Judge overturns 625 million fine against Apple. Spiegel Online , April 5, 2011, accessed December 5, 2011 .
  10. Lisa Bruness: Victory for Apple: $ 625.5 million fine lifted. Netzwelt.de , April 6, 2011, accessed December 5, 2011 .
  11. ^ Moritz Hiltl: The American jury trial Freiburg Law Students Journal 2007, p. 5
  12. jury nullification dict.cc, German-English dictionary, accessed on April 14, 2018
  13. Jury Nullification Legal Informations Institute, accessed on April 14, 2018 (English)
  14. What Is Jury Nullification? ( Memento of the original from April 14, 2018 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. Fully Informed Jury Association, accessed April 14, 2018 @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot / fija.org
  15. Sonali Chakravarti: The OJ Simpson Verdict, Jury Nullification and Black Lives Matter: The Power to Acquit August 5, 2016 (English)
  16. Hiroshi Fukurai: Is OJ Simpson Verdict an Example of Jury Nullification? Jury Verdicts, Legal Concepts, and Jury Performance in a Racially Sensitive Criminal Case International Journal of Applied and Comparative Criminal Justice 1998, pp. 185–210 (English)
  17. Clay Conrad: OJ Simpson Case Wrongly Decried Jury Nullification June 23, 2013 (English)
  18. Gerald F. Uelmen: Jury-Bashing and the OJ Simpson Verdict Harvard Journal of Law & Public Policy 1996, pp. 475, 478 (English)
  19. Ronja Hoffmann: The jury in court: outdated or protection from arbitrariness by the authorities? 23rd January 2015
  20. ^ Theresa Dietz: The Grand Jury in American Criminal Procedure Law German American Law Journal, September 30, 2010
  21. cf. Reuters , AP : Bill Cosby trial ended in hung jury because two jurors refused to convict, juror tells media June 22, 2017
  22. cf. dpa : Second attempt: New trial against Bill Cosby Focus , April 8, 2018