Reviving the Jury

Albert W. Dzur

in Punishment, Participatory Democracy, and the Jury

Published in print September 2012 | ISBN: 9780199874095
Published online September 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780199980024 | DOI:

Series: Studies in Penal Theory and Philosophy

Reviving the Jury

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How can the jury—or something like it—increase its standing within criminal justice? The American Bar Association and other organizations concerned about the jury’s decline have urged a “more active jury” with measures like jury note taking and questions for witnesses. Academic supporters endorse these reforms but overlook the possibility of broader institutional change. By contrast, grassroots activists advocating the “fully informed juror” seek to redress power imbalances within the courtroom through nullification. This chapter argues that both movements needlessly accept a dichotomy between lay and professional judgment; each favoring a different side, neither conceive co-responsibility for criminal justice. It suggests two institutional changes instead. First, carefully crafted jury sentencing authority—accepted practice for capital cases, for some components of civil cases, and in a handful of states for noncapital cases—can transparently rather than covertly empower laypeople in the court and may also moderate citizen influence on sentencing. Second, limits on plea bargaining should be considered. While plea bargaining is often justified by reasons of efficiency and cost, the penal state has its own inefficiencies and high economic and social costs that can be fully comprehended by the public only via greater participation in the criminal justice process.

Keywords: American Bar Association; criminal justice; fully informed juror; grassroots activism; institutional change; juror questions; jury nullification; jury sentencing; participation; plea bargaining

Chapter.  9943 words. 

Subjects: Political Theory

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