The above line of questioning destroyed the defendant's chance of being acquitted. Surprisingly, however, the questions that sealed the defendant's fate were raised by a juror after the prosecutor had failed to elicit the devastating facts.'
The notion of allowing jurors to question witnesses during a trial is not a novel one, but the governmental entities responsible for supervising the court system never have encouraged the practice.' As a result, juror questioning is not widespread.' This situation, however, may be changing. During 1989 judges in at least thirty states, including New York, California, and Connecticut, agreed to conduct the first nation- wide experiment in which jury members could question witnesses in both civil and criminal trials and inform the judges of any need for additional information. The experiment has generated significant national media attention and has sparked public debate among trial lawyers, judges, and jury psychologists.'
The jury's basic function is to resolve the questions of fact presented during the course of the trial and to do so within established trial procedure.' The jury is, however, under two severe handicaps. First, courtroom procedures often are foreign to the members of the panel. Second, attorneys present evidence through one-way communication-the attorneys talk and the jurors listen.' In most courtrooms in the United States today, two-way communication is allowed between the members of the jury and the lawyers only when the jury renders a verdict. Considering that most interpersonal encounters in daily life use two-way communication, the one-way communication process utilized in American courtrooms is unusual.
Jeffrey S. Berkowitz,
Breaking the Silence: Should Jurors Be Allowed to Question Witnesses During Trial?,
44 Vanderbilt Law Review
Available at: https://scholarship.law.vanderbilt.edu/vlr/vol44/iss1/4