Jury Facts
Jury Facts

25 Magisterial Jury Facts

Karin Lehnardt
By Karin Lehnardt, Senior Writer
Published January 29, 2020
  • Juries are a feature of the Anglo-American common law system. Its modern iteration first emerged in England during the Middle Ages.[1]
  • Juries are commonly used today in the United States, Canada, Australia, Great Britain and other countries that have been influenced by England's legal traditions.[1]
  • The word "jury" is from the Latin iurare, meaning "to swear."[6]
  • The modern jury system evolved from an ancient Germanic tradition whereby a group of honorable men would investigate a crime and judge an accused person.[1]
  • The 6th Amendment to the United States Constitution guarantees the right to a trial by jury.[1]
  • Emmett Till Fact
    While juries are a feature of democratic society, they also can reflect and reproduce racism
  • In 1955, an African American teenager named Emmett Till was killed for allegedly flirting with a white female. The all-white jury acquitted the murderers.[1]
  • Not all trials have a jury. Judges usually try smaller cases. Juries try larger civil cases and criminal cases where the punishment is longer than 6 months.[1]
  • Not all juries consist of 12 people. The number of jury members depends on the US state and the severity of the case.[1]
  • The early jury system spread from Britain in two ways: 1) the expansion of the British Empire brought it to Asia, Africa, and America, and 2) the French Revolution popularized the system throughout Europe. However, by the mid-19th century, wars and the rise of communism and fascism weakened the jury system dramatically.[7]
  • The film "12 Angry Men" inspired Sonia Sotomayor, the first Hispanic/Latina Supreme Court Justice, to go to law school.[1]
  • Over 90% of all jury trials in the world happen in the United States.[7]
  • Jurors are selected through a process known as voire dire, which is Latin for "speak the truth." Prospective jurors promise to tell the truth so that a judge can select the jurors best suited for the case.[1]
  • During a 1981 mail fraud and conspiracy trial, lawyers complained that members of the jury were sleeping. The judge replied, "If the jurors are sleeping, that's your problem."[5]
  • A jury consists of twelve persons chosen to decide who has the better lawyer.

    - Robert Frost

  • In 1898, Utah became the first state to allow women to serve on juries. By 1927, only 19 states allowed women to serve.[10]
  • People try various strategies to get out of jury duty, including dressing up as a prisoner, mentioning a friendship with Jeffrey Dahmer, dressing up as Jesus Christ, and even writing a fake doctor's note.[2]
  • In early 2010, then President Barack Obama was called to jury duty in Cook County, IL. He was scheduled to give the State of the Union that week, so he got out of it.[5]
  • Under English common law, women were not allowed (except in a small number of cases) to serve on juries, under the doctrine of propter defectum, or "defect of sex."[10]
  • Women and Jury
    The idea of women sitting on a jury was ridiculed until the 20th century

  • The first woman to receive a jury summons was a school teacher named Eliza Stewart in 1870. At the time, the Wyoming region was described as a "mass of depraved humanity and desperate characters," so the  menfolk asked women to serve on juries.[10]
  • Ancient Greek philosopher Socrates was tried by a jury of over 500 people. The jury convicted Socrates in a 280–220 vote and sentenced him to die by drinking hemlock.[9]
  • A man who overslept jury duty in 2019 was sentenced to 10 days in jail, despite not having a criminal record.[8]
  • Ouija Board Facts
    Needless to say, they were liquored up a little
  • During a 1994 murder trial, jurors asked a Ouija board if the defendant was guilty. When the court found out that the guilty verdict came from a Ouija board, the jury was discharged and the trial was reset.[4]
  • A three-month trial was so boring that jurors started a secret Sudoku challenge. Unaware of the contest, the judge complimented the jury for being so attentive and for taking such good notes. They were discovered, however, when someone noticed they were taking their notes vertically. The trial was reset.[3]
  • An alternate juror wore a Star Trek uniform to the Whitewater trial every day. She was eventually dismissed for talking to the press.[1]
  • As late as 1961, the Supreme Court upheld a Florida law automatically exempting women from jury duty, stating that children and domestic duties were a woman's priority.[10]
  • A juror is someone who sits on a jury; a jurist is a judge or someone who studies the law.[1]

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