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The U.S. Jury System: An Insight from a Civil Lawyer’s Perspective

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Abstract

The trial by jury can be described as the cornerstone of the U.S. legal system, facilitating the community’s participation in the legal process and thereby serving as a protection against arbitrary action and oppression by the Government. It is constitutionally guaranteed in both criminal and civil cases, the former by Amendment No. 6, the latter by Amendment No. 7. In the U.S. legal system the jury trial is a genuine and strong right, safeguarded by the possibility of jury nullification and the effective double jeopardy requirement following an acquittal by a jury in criminal cases, giving the jury the absolute power to acquit the defendant without accountability. Compared to the jury system available in Austria, one of the few civil law countries retaining jury trials, the U.S. system conveys much more power to the juries, thereby preventing any undue influence by the state. The following article will describe and analyze the goals, function, and operation of the U.S. jury system and point out the vast differences to the present jury system in Austrian law. As trial by jury is only available in criminal proceedings in Austria, the focus will be on the jury system in criminal trials.

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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag/Wien 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institut für Strafrecht, Strafprozessrecht und KriminologieUniversität InnsbruckAustria

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