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What is the purpose of a trial jury?

You might hear people who are facing criminal charges say that they will make their case to the jury. This concept is one that is supported by the United States Constitution. The Sixth Amendment sets the right of a person who is facing at least six months in prison to have a trial by jury.

It is possible for a defendant to waive his or her right to a jury trial. This is often done as part of a plea deal or if the defendant wants a bench trial in front of a judge.

Why is a jury trial important?

A jury trial puts your peers in charge of your fate. The people who sit on the jury are members of your community who have been selected for your case. This prevents the prosecution or judges from having unchecked power when it comes to criminal matters. It also gives defendants some measure of control over who is going to hear their case and decide if they are guilty or not guilty.

How does a jury make decisions?

The jury hears the evidence and arguments in the case. Based on what is presented, the jury meets to deliberate. When they come to an agreement that meets the court's criteria for the case, they can hand the verdict over to the judge and read it to the defendant in court. It is important that the jury only considers what is presented in court, so judges might sequester the jurors to prevent outside influences from tainting their decision.

If you are facing a jury trial, preparation is the key. Your defense has to focus on telling laypeople why the prosecution's case isn't something that meets the criteria of "beyond a reasonable doubt."

Source: FindLaw, "What is the Role of a Jury in a Criminal Case?" accessed Dec. 20, 2017

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