The jury is a court made up of people who are not judges and who will make a decision about a criminal case. That is, these people will be present throughout the trial and will see the evidence and arguments of the parties. Once the trial is over, they will make a decision on the defendant’s guilt.
This decision is known as a verdict and must be motivated in accordance with the law and the evidence provided at trial. Once they have the verdict, it will be the judge who will write the sentence and impose the corresponding penalty.
This judicial mechanism is a means for citizens to take part and administer justice. It is a right, but also a duty. If the person is called for jury duty, he cannot resign without just cause. For example, having a disability or holding a political office.
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Its origin is in the Anglo-Saxon countries, both the United Kingdom and the US have this judicial mechanism deeply rooted. On the other hand, in Spain it has been regulated since 1995.
The main features are:
- The jury will be a panel of nine members and two alternates. These people do not have to have legal training.
- It does not have a permanent character, that is, it is constituted when the law so determines, a different one for each trial.
- They cannot judge the guilt of all the crimes that are stipulated in the Penal Code, but only have the power to judge some of them.
- For the jury to find guilty, it must gather seven votes out of nine in favor of the defendant’s guilt.
- For the jury to declare not guilty, it must have five votes of the nine members.
- Jurors may not be coerced, influenced or threatened in any way by the victim or the accused.
- The people who make up the jury must not be related to any of the parties to the criminal proceeding.
- People must be of legal age and be nationals of the country, know how to read, write and have sufficient skills. They cannot have their political rights restricted.
- It is a paid function on a daily basis for the duration of the trial.
When can a popular jury be constituted?
It will depend on each legislation. In Spain, the popular jury will be in charge of judging when these crimes exist:
- Very serious crimes: homicides.
- Trespassing crime.
- Relief omission.
- Crimes against social property.
- Crimes committed by officials: embezzlement, influence peddling or bribery.
The main principles that the jury must respect are:
- Submission to the law: the verdict must be based on the law. If it does not have it, it cannot be accepted and will be returned by the head judge or jury president until it has a legal basis.
- Independence: they cannot be influenced by any of the parties. They have to be impartial, without hatred or affections that play for or against any of the parties.
- Responsibility: being a jury is not a game and the importance of the decision for the participants must be taken into account.
- Compulsory voting: Obligation to vote and to keep the deliberations secret.