A jury trial (or trial by jury) is a legal proceeding in which a jury either makes a decision or makes findings of fact which are then applied by a judge. It is distinguished from a bench trial, in which a judge or panel of judges make all decisions. Jury trials are used in a significant share of serious criminal cases in almost all common law legal systems, and juries or lay judges have been incorporated into the legal systems of many civil law countries for criminal cases. Only the United States and Canada make routine use of jury trials in a wide variety of non-criminal cases.
Other common law legal jurisdictions use jury trials only in a very select class of cases. a jury is a collection of twelve randomly selected persons between the ages of 18 and 65 from the electoral roll. They are all registered voters and are resident citizens of the country . In most common law jurisdictions, the jury is responsible for finding the facts of the case, while the judge determines the law. These "peers of the accused" are responsible for listening to a dispute, evaluating the evidence presented, deciding on the facts, and making a decision in accordance with the rules of law and their jury instructions.
Typically, the jury only judges guilt or a verdict of not guilty, but the actual penalty is set by the judge. An interesting innovation was introduced in Russia in the judicial reform of Alexander II: unlike in modern jury trials, jurors decided not only whether the defendant was guilty or not guilty, but they had the third choice: "Guilty, but not to be punished", since Alexander II believed that justice without morality is wrong.
In countries where jury trials are common, juries are often seen as an important check against state power. Other common assertions about the benefits of trial by jury is that it provides a means of interjecting community norms and values into judicial proceedings and that it legitimizes the law by providing opportunities for citizens to validate criminal statutes in their application to specific trials. jury trials educate citizens about self-government.
Many also believe that a jury is likely to provide a more sympathetic hearing, or a fairer one, to a party who is not part of the government – or other establishment interest – than would representatives of the state. This last point may be disputed. For example, in highly emotional cases, such as child rape, the jury may be tempted to convict based on personal feelings rather than on conviction beyond reasonable doubt. Another issue with jury trials is the potential for jurors to be swayed by prejudice, including racial considerations.
An infamous case was the 1992 trial in the Rodney King case in California, in which white police officers were acquitted of excessive force in the violent beating of a black man by a jury consisting mostly of whites without any black jurors. Jury trials in multi-cultural countries with a history of ethnic tensions may be problematic, and lead to juries being unduly biased and partial. This is one of the reasons why both India and Pakistan abolished jury trials soon after independence.
The positive belief about jury trials in the UK and the US contrasts with popular belief in many other nations, in which it is considered bizarre and risky for a person's fate to be put into the hands of untrained laymen. could freely choose whether to have a jury or trial by judges, The fact that juries do not often have to give a reason for their verdict is also criticized, since opponents argue it is unfair for a person to be deprived of life, liberty or property without being told why it is being done so.