This house would limit the right to trial by jury in some criminal cases.

Trial by jury is a legal process through which a group of lay individuals make a decision about the outcome of a trial, which is then applied by a judge. Usually the jury decides the facts of a case, but the judge determines the punishment. The individuals are selected from the community and usually need to come to a unanimous decision if they wish to find the defendant in the case guilty.

This topic brings together a number of philosophical and practical concerns. One Prop possibility is to argue against trial by jury in theory: a difficult argument to make, but not impossible. It is worth researching which countries have trial by jury and which do not, and looking into why these systems were designed the way they were.

That said, it is probably easiest to argue against trial by jury in specific circumstances, given the high level of importance many liberal democracies, like the UK and US, place on it. There is a lot of literature on contemporary attempts to try suspected terrorists, and debaters might want to consider the appropriateness of juries in these instances. Props may also want to consider some of the practical aspects of always having trial by jury: are there enough governmental resources to do so? What happens when juries are intimidated or threatened? Again, thinking about why trial by jury is or is not used in certain countries/contexts is a useful way to start brainstorming: India and Pakistan, for example, abolished jury trials out of concerns about jury bias.

Given that the strongest (or at least easiest) Prop strategy is probably to discuss practical concerns, it is important that both sides of the debate are careful to engage with each other's analysis. The Opp can make a very intuitively appealing case about the theoretical importance of trial by jury in a liberal, just court. Indeed, in many cases, the strongest way to deal with Prop concerns may be simply to weigh them against the importance of maintaining the integrity of criminal courts, and argue that trial by jury is too important to be sacrificed for expediency. That said, the Opp should also ensure that they tailor their case to what the Prop argues, and do not underestimate the importance of practicality arguments. If the Prop convincingly argues that it is simply not possible to have trial by jury in some circumstances without an enormous tradeoff (either in terms of resources, or by sacrificing some other purpose of the court system), then the Opp needs to have a good response prepared about the tenability of their theoretical proposal. Similarly, the Prop should make sure to deal directly with theoretical analysis, perhaps by questioning the necessity of maintaining trial by jury as an absolute right.

Title 
It may be necessary to limit trial by jury in terrorism cases, or other cases surrounding large national security issues.
Point 

There are three reasons why this is the case. First, terrorist groups may threaten jury members (see Argument 2 for more detail). Second, terrorism may politicize the jury (see Argument 3 for more detail). Third, the state may be limited in what information it can provide if jurors are present. The government may be unable or unwilling to present classified information for fear of intelligence leaks; for example if it does not want to reveal intelligence methods and sources to the public. This reluctance may make it very difficult to prosecute terrorists. The implication is that the unique national security issues terrorism trials pose may make juries untenable if we ever want to convict terrorists of serious crimes.1
1Laura K. Donohue, "Terrorism and Trial by Jury: The Vices and Virtues of British and American Criminal Law"

Counterpoint 

First, eliminating trial by jury may make other countries less willing to cooperate with us, reducing the amount of information we have about international terrorism. For example, the United States’ decision to eliminate juries from terrorism trials resulted in other countries being more reluctant to cooperate (e.g. Germany delayed the extradition of two suspected terrorists because of that decision). Second, eliminating trial by jury gives the democratic countries less of a moral high ground in advocating that other countries – often countries from which terrorists come – adopt liberal democratic structures (something which already established liberal democracies generally regard as being in their self interest). Third, refusing to grant trial by jury to suspected terrorists may make other countries less willing to grant our own citizens fair trials when they are abroad.

Title 
It may be necessary to limit trial by jury in cases where there is a real danger of jury tampering or intimidation.
Point 

It is very difficult to carry out trial by jury if people involved in the case continuously attempt to tamper with the jury, or unduly influence its decision. For example, the UK home office has stated that trying to protect jurors from tampering can be extremely disruptive to the jurors themselves, who may in extreme cases need police protection 24 hours a day. Cases involving international terrorism, drug smuggling or organized crime are the most likely to present such problems 1.  In the infamous trial of Italian anarchists Vanzetti and Sacco, one of the jurors had a bomb thrown at his house, despite a huge number of security measures taken by the Massachusetts government 2.  Another example is the 2008 case of a large armed robbery at Heathrow. After three mistrials, which cost £22m and the last of which collapsed after a serious attempt at jury tampering, it was decided that the case would be tried by a judge alone 3. If eliminating the jury is the only way to ensure that a) a trial occurs and b) jurors are safe, particularly when it is the defendants' fault that a fair trial by jury is untenable, it may be necessary to do so.

Counterpoint 

There are procedural ways of mitigating this concern that are less severe than eliminating the jury altogether.
Possible ways of dealing with jury intimidation/tampering include 1) having retrials in cases where jury tampering occurred, 2) attempting to increase the degree of juror anonymity, for example by seating jurors where they cannot be seen, and 3) by having higher penalties for jury tampering and intimidation. The second way is probably the most effective, and American courts have found that in cases where jury tampering poses a serious threat, it does not interfere with the defendant's right to a fair trial.1
1Laura K. Donohue, "Terrorism and Trial by Jury: The Vices and Virtues of British and American Criminal Law"

Title 
Judges are better at delivering justice than juries are.
Point 

Juries are not technically trained in evaluating evidence.1 Additionally, judges are trained to recognize and suppress their own prejudices, evaluate information given to them, recognize prosecutorial strategy etc., better allowing them to make objective decisions. Furthermore, some studies suggest that juries actually work against the innocent; a 1979 study found that "more than 5 per cent of defendants found guilty by juries were considered by professionals to have been convicted in questionable circumstances."2This is hardly surprising given that jurors are ordinary citizens who are forced to sit through what are often dull and protracted trials, and who may have little interest in actually listening to what is being said (Joanne Frail, a juror convicted for contempt of court stated that she 'drew more than she wrote [during the trial]').3 Perhaps we should trust in the expertise of screened and trained justices instead.

1Sir Louis Blum Cooper QC, "A Judge Can Do the Work of 12 Amateurs, and Better

2Baldwin and McConville, "Jury Trials"

3BBC, "Juror Admits Contempt of Court Over Facebook Case"

Counterpoint 

Not only is trial by jury a very important check on the justice system, but evidence also suggests that juries are fair and effective.
First of all, as explained in the Opparguments, trial by jury is an extremely important check in the criminal justice system. Eliminating it would be a grave threat to justice. But second, to address the more practical concerns raised by the Proposition, studies actually suggest that juries are fair and effective. Recent UK Ministry of Justice research found that juries tend to be objective and non-biased, and that cases based on the strongest evidence are also those cases resulting in the highest conviction rates.1

1Cheryl Thomas, "Are Juries Fair?"

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Title 
Having trial by jury for people accused of very small offences is a waste of resources.
Point 

Juries are very expensive and time consuming, and courts may not be capable of using them for all trials.  Indeed, in both the UK and the United States, minor or petty offences can be tried without jury (such offenses are defined differently in different places; in the US petty offences are those carrying less than 6 months prison time or a fine of $5000)1That is because in densely populated areas, the courts are simply not capable of handling all trials with juries 2. But even beyond the limitations already in place, there may be more small-scale trials which could function without juries, and free up resources. According to British government crime advisor Louise Casey, if all of the either-or cases (cases dealing with minor offences which can be tried in either a crown or a magistrates court) were shifted entirely to the latter, Britain would save £30m in the costs of setting up juries. Such money could be used to help out victims of serious crimes, or otherwise improve the justice system 3. For example, if more time and money were freed up in the United States, the courts might not need to pressure so many defendants into plea bargaining, or pleading guilty without a trial in exchange for less harsh sentencing or the dropping of other charges (in 1996, about two thirds of American criminal case dispositions involved guilty pleas) 4. That would allow more trials to take place, and more justice to be done.

1.http://legal-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/Petty+Offense)

2.Robert P. Connolly, "The Petty Offence Exception and Right to a Jury Trial"

3.Peter Wozniak, "Trial by Jury Faces the Axe for Petty Crimes"

Counterpoint 

Trial by jury is too important to sacrifice it for the sake of efficiency.
As explained in the Opposition case, trial by jury is one of the cornerstones of just democratic courts. There are other ways to free up resources: perhaps if we put fewer people in prison we could spend more time and money ensuring that the right people got there. As Judge McQuillan wrote, "dedication, hard work, planning and resources are the means for dealing effectively and rationally with calendar delays."1

1Robert P. Connolly, "The Petty Offence Exception and Right to a Jury Trial"

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Title 
It may be necessary to limit trial by jury in cases where it is impossible to recruit an impartial jury.
Point 

Especially in cases of nationalist conflict or terrorist attacks, it may be extremely difficult to have a non-biased jury. In Northern Island, for example, jurors may sympathize with violent offenders and acquit them despite a preponderance of evidence. Similarly, it can be a struggle to appoint non-biased juries for terrorism trials post 9/11. In 2003, the "Lackwana Six" were accused of aiding a foreign terrorist organization. The magistrate noted that "Understandably, the infamous, dastardly and tragic deeds and events of September 11, 2001 have caused a maelstrom of human emotions to ... create a human reservoir of strong emotional feelings such as fear, anxiety and hatred as well as a feeling of paranoia... These are strong emotions of a negative nature which, if not appropriately checked, cause the ability of one to properly reason to ... be blinded." Questions about jury impartiality have been raised in multiple similar cases, even leading some defendants to claim that they pled guilty out of resignation that the jury would inevitably be biased and refuse to acquit.1 The implication is that in some trials, juries may be unable to make impartial decisions, thus making the trial unfair. The only way for justice to be done, in such cases, is to allow a judge to decide the verdict.

1Laura K. Donohue, "Terrorism and Trial by Jury: The Vices and Virtues of British and American Criminal Law"

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Counterpoint 

First, there are checks in place to help prevent biased decisions and second, the less objective nature of juries is not necessarily bad.
First, in most jury systems, a judge can overturn a guilty verdict if s/he believes that the jury made a faulty decision1. Judges can also order retrials in cases of guilty verdicts, if they believe there were procedural errors. Furthermore, in most countries there is a phase of the jury selection process in which both the prosecution and defence can object to a juror; in many countries each side gets a specific number of these unconditional 'peremptory challenges.' That allows blatantly biased jurors to be excluded. Perhaps most importantly, at least with juries there are multiple people making the decision, as opposed to a sole judge: there is no reason to assume that a lone judge will be less biased, just because of his 'professional training.'
But second, having a subjective body making the decision is not necessarily bad. We obviously don't want people to be swayed by unchecked prejudices, but one of the points of having a jury is that it allows all parts of the community to participate in the judicial process and provide input that disconnected and often homogenous government officials cannot. For example, the Diplock courts established in 1970s Northern Ireland eliminated juries, and along with them, jury bias. This resulted in higher conviction rates for violent offenders, but also had the negative effect of excluding the Catholic minority from the administration of justice (and judge bias remained, as evidence by the failure of the courts to eliminate the gap between Catholic and Protestant conviction rates).2

1Andrew D. Stine, P.A. "Can a Judge Overturn a Jury Vedict?"

2Laura K. Donohue, "Terrorism and Trial by Jury: The Vices and Virtues of British and American Criminal Law"

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Title 
Protections offered in a court must be absolute in order for the court to be just.
Point 

A just adversarial court system is premised on absolutes: that the defence has certain absolute rights which check it against government corruption, and which ensure fair trials even at the expense of conviction. Indeed, it is for this reason that we say it is better to let ten guilty men go free than to punish one innocent man. The protections in place that ensure fair trials must always be upheld, or else the guarantee of fairness no longer exists. If the government can sometimes remove this right, even in clearly delineated circumstances, then the right is no longer absolute, and the presumption in favour of the defence is far weaker, undermining the justness of the entire system.

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Counterpoint 

Trial by jury is not necessary to uphold principles of justice.
As stated in response to Opp Argument 1, there are plenty of other checks in favour of the defence. We do not agree that removing trial by jury erodes at this principle: trial by jury may be important, but a judge can still presume innocence, treat evidence fairly etc.
If juries are not necessary to uphold the principle of innocent until proven guilty, then removing them in specific circumstances should not undermine the integrity and justness of the court. Again, we often do not have trial by jury in the case of petty offences, suggesting that this right is not regarded as absolute.

 

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Title 
Through jury nullification, juries make the law more accountable to the people.
Point 

Although juries are not technically supposed to nullify the law, or choose to acquit even if the evidence suggests that the defendant is guilty, they sometimes do. This usually happens when the jury believes the law is unjust: for example when the punishment is disproportionate to the crime1 (for example some activists encourage juries to nullify in cases of non-violent drug crimes). We believe this is good because it allows the public to check the government in a way for which rare elections and complex legislative processes do not allow. Only consider how many 'democratic' countries have upheld policies of segregation or discrimination, and it becomes clear that 'free and fair' elections can lead to outcomes that are anything but. Thus jury nullification can a) protect individuals from blatantly unjust laws, and b) provide impetus to actual legislative change. For example, some scholars believe that it was in part the frequent acquittal by juries of defendants who were probably guilty, but who would have received the death penalty if found to be so, that led to the US Supreme Court declaring mandatory capital punishment schemes unconstitutional.2 This community input is valuable in all circumstances, and there is no reason why it should be limited to certain cases.

1Doug Linder, "What Is Jury Nullification?

2Andrew Leipold, "Rethinking Jury Nullification

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Counterpoint 

Jury nullification is a bad thing, and just another reason why trial by jury is not always the best way to deliver justice.
When juries nullify, they bypass the electoral process, invalidating laws that society has already approved by democratic elections. This is unjust, because it means that a small, random group of individuals can ignore laws which have been approved by the majority of society. Even if a juror believes a law to be unjust, it is integral that he enforce that law, because that law represents the will of a constitutionally checked majority, as well as trained and educated legislators. If a law is truly unjust, there are better avenues to change it: voting in new legislators, legally protesting, appealing the law in court etc. Furthermore, there is no guarantee that jury nullification will be used to protect rights; indeed racist juries frequently acquitted KKK members in the 1950s and 60s.1 The fact that there is no way to prevent jury nullification without forcing juries to justify their decisions (which would violate the principle that juries must be allowed to deliberate secretly) is just another reason why juries may not be the best way to deliver justice.
1Hiroshi Fukurai and Richard Krooth, "Race in the Jury Box"

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Title 
Trial by jury is a fundamental right and should never be abridged.
Point 

Trial by jury is an essential check on abuse in the court system for three main reasons. First, it prevents governmental oppression by ensuring that non-state actors determine guilt 1. It is dangerous to allow the government—the same body which makes and enforces the laws—to also decide who is guilty of breaking the laws. Second, it checks against corrupt judges and prosecutors2.  Judges are only human, and are susceptible to the same weaknesses, like prejudice and corruption, as the rest of us. Consequently, it is very dangerous to put the future of defendants in their hands. A representative group of jurors, approved by both sides, is far less likely to reach an unjust decision, since they are generally required to reach unanimous decisions to convict, and it is unlikely that an entire jury will be made up of biased, corrupt, or negligent people. Third, trial by jury allows for community input in the justice system (see Opp Argument 4 and response to Prop Argument 3 for more explanation). Thus trial by jury is essential to ensuring that innocent individuals are fairly treated, and is a fundamental right which ought never be denied. As Chairman of the Criminal Bar Association Paul Mendelle QC said, "Some principles of justice are beyond price. Trial by your peers is one of them."3

1.Robert P. Connolly, "The Petty Offence Exception and Right to a Jury Trial"

2.Robert P. Connolly, "The Petty Offence Exception and Right to a Jury Trial"

3.Clive Coleman, “Debating non-jury criminal trial”

Counterpoint 

First, juries are not necessarily fairer or more just than judges, and second, even if trial by jury is an important right, that does not make it an unlimited one.
First, there are reasons to believe that juries are less suited than judges to make criminal convictions. See Prop Argument 5 for more detail. But second, even if we do not want to eliminate trial by jury, there are still particular circumstances where it makes most sense to defer to such judges' authority, as we explained in the Prop case. There are already plenty of checks to protect the innocent: for example most systems have right to appeal clauses, safeguards against double jeopardy, presumption of innocence etc. While juries may generally present an added benefit, we believe there are circumstances where having a jury presents too many concerns for it to be a viable option.

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Title 
Limiting trial by jury in some cases sets the stage for limiting it in other, unjustified, cases.
Point 

Humans are fallible, and so sometimes it is better to have absolute rules against certain actions, even if we recognize that in a perfect world, it might be better to allow such actions in very specific circumstances.1 It is for this reason, for example, that we never allow evidence obtained by illegal measures to be presented in court, even though such evidence would sometimes make it possible to convict. Similarly, even if removing trial by jury might be good in individual circumstances, it is too great a power to give to a fallible government which may misuse that authority. If there is a precedent of the right to trial by jury being removed in some circumstances, even if that removal is justified, it becomes much easier for corrupt governments to remove it for unjustified reasons, and it becomes correspondingly more difficult for us to condemn that decision as illegitimate.

1Brad Hooker, "Rule Consequentialism"

Counterpoint 

If the situations in which trial by jury can be limited are clearly delineated, governments cannot justify limiting it in unjustified circumstances.
Saying that the government can sometimes limit trial by jury is not equivalent to giving it a pass to do so whenever it chooses. Obviously there would need to be clear criteria as to when the government could use its power to remove a jury: factors such as the level of security threat posed by the trial, the magnitude of the crime, the imminence of danger etc. would all need to be considered. Perhaps there could be an extra-governmental body to approve such decisions. It is a slippery slope fallacy to argue that allowing the removal of trial by jury in some cases will lead to the erosion of that right in general. Indeed, many countries already do limit the right to serious, as opposed to petty crimes, and the Opp has not presented any evidence that doing so has had negative results.

Bibliography 

Baldwin, John and Michael McConville. Jury Trials. Oxford: Claredon Press. 1979.

BBC. "Juror Admits Contempt of Court Over Facebook Contact." BBC. 14 June 2011.Accessed 29 August 2011.

Blom-Cooper, Louis. "A Judge Can Do the Work of 12 Amateurs, and Better." The Times. 21 October 2003. Accessed 29 August 2011.

Coleman, Clive. "Debating Non-Jury Criminal Trial." BBC News. 12 January 2010.

Connolly, Robert P. "The Petty Offense Exception and the Right to a Jury Trial." Fordham Law Review. Vol. 49 Issue 2. 1980.

Donohue, Laura K. "Terrorism and Trial by Jury: The Vices and Virtues of British and American Criminal Law." Stanford Law Review. Vol. 59. March 2007.

Fukarai, Hiroshi and Richard Krooth. Race in the Jury Box. New York: SUNY series in New Directions in Crime and Justice Studies. August 2003. First chapter available here (and reference is from that chapter):

Hooker, Brad. "Rule Consequentialism." Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. 9 January 2008. Accessed 29 August 2011.

Leipold, Andrew D. "Rethinking Jury Nullification." Virginia Law Review. March, 1996.

Linder, Doug. "Jury Nullification." University of Missouri-Kansas School of Law. 2001. Accessed 29 August 2011.

PBS. "Stats & Facts: Prosecutors, Indigent Defense Attorneys and State Criminal Courts." PBS.Accessed 29 August 2011.

Stine, Andrew D. "Can A Judge Overturn a Jury Verdict?" 1 July 2011. Accessed 29 August 2011.

Thomas, Cheryl. "Are Juries Fair?" Ministry of Justice. Research Series 1/10. February 2010.

Travis, Alan. "New Threat to Trial by Jury." The Guardian. 8 November 2002. Accessed 29 August 2011.

Wozniak, Peter. "Trial by Jury faces the Axe for Petty Crimes." Politics.co.uk. 33 November 2010.Accessed 29 August 2011.

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