Jurors


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Jurors

 

in the courts of bourgeois states, nonprofessional judges who participate in criminal—and in some countries, civil—trials. Jurors constitute a body distinct from that of professional judges. In Italy, France, and the Federal Republic of Germany, jurors (lay judges) and learned judges are members of the same tribunals.

As a rule, jurors who sit on criminal cases bring in a verdict on the guilt or innocence of the accused, while jurors in civil cases decide questions of fact. The jury already existed at the time of slaveholding states, but jury trials acquired an important role only in the period of the bourgeois revolutions, when they became a weapon of the bourgeoisie in its struggle against the feudal order. By designating jurors “representatives of the people” in the courts, the bourgeoisie strove to limit, in its own interests, the rights of judges of the Crown and to “fill in gaps in the law with the expansive bourgeois conscience” (K. Marx in K. Marx and F. Engels, Soch., vol. 8, p. 491).

Jurors were always selected or designated according to certain qualifying conditions, that is, from among property owners. In prerevolutionary Russia, for example, after the introduction of juries in 1864, a rather high property qualification was established for jurors. In addition, jurors were tested for loyalty.

In Great Britain, jurors must be no less than 21 years of age; they must be registered voters; and they must either own property that brings in an annual income of no less than £100 or be tenants of houses that bring in incomes of £200 to £300. Candidates for juries in the USA must be no less than 21 years of age; they must have resided in a given county for no less than a year; and they must know the English language. Teachers, physicians, and in some states railroad workers and journalists are barred from jury service.

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Like children of yesteryear, jurors should be seen and not heard -- until it's time to ask for their verdict at the end of the criminal trial.