Nancy J. King

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Law and Contemporary Problems

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jury, law reform, criminal justice


Criminal Law | Criminology and Criminal Justice | Law


As juries become both less common and more expensive, some have questioned the wisdom of preserving the criminal jury in its present form. The benefits of the jury are difficult to quantify, but jury verdicts continue to earn widespread acceptance by the public and trial by jury remains a cherished right of most Americans. In any event, many basic features of the criminal jury in the United States cannot be modified without either constitutional amendment or radical reinterpretations of the Bill of Rights. Judges and legislators continue to tinker within constitutional confines, some hoping to improve the jury trial by helping jurors deliberate more carefully, others hoping to improve the speed and flexibility of jury trials, still others hoping to promote greater juror participation. Ultimately, the success or failure of any jury reform will depend on its ability to accommodate those values unique to American criminal justice: a fierce attachment to adversarial advocacy, respect for state autonomy, an improving sensitivity to racial equality, the expectation of jury independence from judicial control, and a deep commitment to freedom of speech.



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