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Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Essay on the Right to Jury Trial in the United States

Essay on the Right to Jury Trial in the United States - a Criminal Justice System Essay

            The criminal justice system in the United States is in some respects similar to other countries while in some respects different from other countries.  In one sense, it is similar to other countries because it follows the same fundamental principles.  For example, if the crime is a felony the punishment imposed is longer while if the crime is a misdemeanor the punishment may only amount to a fine or 30 day imprisonment.  It is also similar in other jurisdictions because of the presence of aggravating or mitigating circumstances.  These are circumstance which the law takes into account in determining the punishment to be imposed.  Similar to other countries, US criminal justice system also adopts the rehabilitative and reformation model.  This is the criminal justice system model which is based on the principal that prisons should be a means to aid the inmate to be reformed individuals.  As such probation and parole are made part of the US criminal justice system. 
            What makes the American justice system different from other jurisdiction is that it provides for the right of the accused to jury trial.  It is a fundamental right that is protected under Art III of the US Constitution which states that “trial of all crimes, except in cases of impeachment, shall be by jury.”  The Sixth Amendment extended the right to the state and district where the crime has been committed. 
            The 1968 case of Duncan v. Louisiana (391 US 145) explains the reason for jury trial, to wit:
“Those who wrote our Constitution knew from the history and experience that it was necessary to protect against unfounded criminal charges brought to eliminate enemies and against judges too responsive to the voice of higher authority.  Providing an accused with the right to be tried by a jury of his peers gave him an inestimable safeguard against the corrupt or overzealous prosecutor and against the biased or eccentric judge.  If defendant preferred the common-sense judgment of a jury to the more tutored but perhaps less sympathetic reaction of the single judge, he was to have it.” 
            One of the advantages of the jury trial is that the accused can expect from it “common-sense judgment” of ordinary people.  The perception is that the minds of the jury are free from biases and prejudices (Thomas E. Carney, 2007, p.2).  It is contrary to the judge-made decision of a cold and neutral judge who makes decisions full of citations of authorities and references to proven and undisputed facts.  The jury, however, decides the case even without putting in writing the bases of its verdict. It decides on gut-feeling and based on what their conscience tells them.   
            The weakness, however, of the jury trial is that there is a perception that they are incapable of adequately understanding the evidence or determining the factual issues.  An exhaustive study made on this issue concluded that in criminal cases juries do understand the evidence and come to sound conclusions in most of the cases.    
            From a scale of 1 to 10, I would rate the US criminal justice system 8.  Crimes happen anywhere and there is an unprecedented level of increase in crime rates all over the world.  It is not only the crime rates that have increased but even the level of violence in the commission of the crime has increased.  However, I believe that the US criminal justice system ranks high compared to the other criminal justice system is because it can better respond to crime.  Firstly, US has sufficient number of law enforcement officers who can prevent crime and respond to crime.  Secondly, compared to other countries it has the latest technology and equipment to combat crimes.  Its police officers have taser guns.  Its police cars are equipped with communications and camera equipment.  It has the latest crime scene investigation technology such as tools to get fingerprints, analyze blood stains, hair samples and cross-reference the same with the FBI’s existing database.   Indeed, in this country crime is seriously dealt with by law.  

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