Right to Jury Trial
Among other important rights, the United States Constitution provides the right to a jury trial. Specifically, the Sixth Amendment guarantees that anyone accused of a crime has the right to a speedy and public trial by an impartial jury. In the civil context, the Seventh Amendment provides that the right to a trial by jury shall be preserved where the value in controversy exceeds twenty dollars.
The right to a jury trial is especially important in criminal cases because a criminal defendant (a person accused of a crime) does not bear the burden of proof. That is to say, the prosecution must establish beyond a reasonable doubt every element of the charged crimes because a criminal defendant is innocent until proven guilty. In that regard, a criminal defendant does not have to provide any evidence. Moreover, a criminal defendant has the right to remain silent. The Fifth Amendment of the United States Constitution provides the right against self-incrimination. In other words, a criminal defendant may not be forced to testify against himself. Additionally, his refusal to testify may not be used against him.
Other important rights associated with the right to a jury trial in criminal cases are a criminal defendant’s right to be represented by an attorney and a criminal defendant’s right to confront his accusers. Even though a criminal defendant is not required to provide any evidence at trial, he has the right to cross-examine all of the witnesses who testify against him. This is an important right because it requires witnesses who testify against a criminal defendant to come to court, take a sworn oath to tell the truth, and be questioned by the criminal defendant’s attorney.
Usually, a criminal jury is comprised of twelve people. In order to convict a criminal defendant, the jury must reach a unanimous verdict. A deadlocked jury that is unable to reach a unanimous verdict is said to be a “hung jury.” When a trial results in a hung jury, the prosecution has the discretion to retry the case.
Most criminal cases do not result in jury trials, but rather, they are resolved by a plea bargain negotiated by the criminal defendant’s attorney and the prosecuting attorney.