Understanding Your Constitutional Right to a Jury Trial
The 6th Amendment to the Constitution of the United States holds that in all criminal proceedings the accused shall have the right to “an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed.”
The right to a jury trial is a way to prevent government oppression by having impartial “peers” decide the fate of an accused. It safeguards against heavy-handed and unfair prosecution as well as judges that may have bias. It prevents unchecked power and helps ensure an accused receives justice.
It is important to remember that the role of the juror is to be the trier of fact. The judge's role is to instruct jurors on what the law is in each case, and following those instructions, the jury is to render a verdict based on the evidence presented in court.
The right to a jury trial in the 6th Amendment only applies to criminal matters. The 7th Amendment guarantees the right to a trial by jury in certain federal civil matters, but it does not apply to state courts.
Contacting Law Office of Tony Swartz should be one of your first steps if you have been arrested in Kittitas and/or Yakima County. Call us at 509-293-7593 today.
Benefits & Risks of a Jury Trial in a Criminal Case in Washington
Jury trials, while guaranteed in criminal cases by the Constitution, do not come without advantages and disadvantages. Some of the benefits of a trial by jury include:
- Judges are prevented from having complete control over the outcome of a trial. While still in charge of the law that is applied in a case, the judge is no longer the trier of fact.
- Having a jury, in certain types of cases, may mean that the odds are in favor of the defendant as there are more chances for a favorable outcome. The only options are not just “guilty” and “not guilty,” as there may be a mistrial instead of jurors can't agree as to a unanimous result.
Disadvantages to a trial by jury include:
- Jurors are laymen, not trained in the law, and if the client's best defense is based on a complex legal concept, a jury trial may not be the best option.
- Jurors, while in theory are to be impartial, come to the courtroom with their own feelings, thought patterns, and biases. Whatever they hear and see during the trial will be processed based upon their own life experiences and beliefs.
- A jury is a group of people that is thrown together, and having a large, varied group come together and pay attention to every critical detail is a difficult task.
How a Criminal Defense Lawyer in Kittitas and/or Yakima County Uses Voir Dire Strategically
Every client of mine has a right to a jury that is fair and impartial. To ensure this right is protected, there is a process known as voir dire which is utilized to screen prospective jurors. An effective criminal defense attorney will know how to use this process to find jurors that may be more sympathetic to their client's situation. A good attorney does this by asking questions of potential jurors which exposes any prejudices or preconceived conclusions they may have.
The defense attorney is not the only counsel allowed to use voir dire to determine who may be on the jury. The prosecution is allowed to do the same to keep the process fair to both parties. The judge also asks the jury panel routine questions such as the jurors' familiarity with the case, with witnesses, or with the topic being discussed in trial.
At Law Office of Tony Swartz, Tony is successful in jury trials with experience in over 70 full jury trials. Learn how he may help you today by scheduling a free consultation either online or by calling 509-293-7593.