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Tuesday, November 25, 2014
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Published: Sunday, 5/1/2005

Jury system reinforces citizenship

BY NORA TIGHE

THE jury system has evolved over the past several centuries, but its present state is the best possible way for justice to be served. This system emerged shortly after the Normans, under William the Conqueror, invaded England in 1066. Jurors began as people participating in the tax system and continued to evolve into character witnesses for trials. By the end of the 13th century juries no longer were witnesses, but judges of the facts.

Even though the jury system began in England, it became part of the American democratic system. The original British colonies adopted the system, and even used it to gain independence from their mother country. Cases in the colonies, such as the libel trial of printer John Peter Zenger, would have had a different outcome if not for the jury system. Zenger wrote allegations about the governor of New York, and was tried for his accusations. Because the jurors felt that Zenger wrote the truth, he was acquitted, thus reinforcing the concept of freedom of the press.

The jury system is a crucial part of our democratic American society. A democracy is a political system in which every person has a voice, and the majority generally rules. In a jury system, the jurors collaborate together to evaluate the validity of the person being judged, and decide on a verdict with which they all agree. Even though the people on the jury are not legal experts, most still know the difference between right and wrong, and are capable of judging truth from lie. Citizens are supposed to remain impartial at all times in order to bestow justice. By remaining impartial, the juries help to create a balance between the opposing sides of the case, the prosecutor (or plaintiff), and the defendant. The impartiality of juries is the fairest way of discovering the truth.

The jury system also reinforces citizenship. John F. Kennedy said in his inaugural address "Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country." Most people wonder how they could ever help their country, for they are just one person. Fulfilling one's civic responsibility of jury duty is exactly what Kennedy hoped people would do. Being a juror allows people not only to help their country but also to help their fellow citizens.

No matter what kind of trial, whether criminal or civil, all will enable the jurors to render justice and feel that they are giving back to society. By allowing citizens to be jurors, the legal system not only gives the citizens a chance to give back to society, but it also reinforces our democratic principles.



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