From Wikiquote
Jump to navigation Jump to search
"The Jury" by John Morgan, painted in 1861, and now in the Bucks County Museum in England.

A jury is a sworn body of people convened to render an impartial verdict (a finding of fact on a question) officially submitted to them by a court, or to set a penalty or judgment. Modern juries tend to be found in courts to ascertain the guilt, or lack thereof, in a crime. In Anglophone jurisdictions, the verdict may be guilty or not guilty (not proven -- a verdict of acquittal, based on the state's failure to prove guilt rather than any proof of innocence -- is also available in Scotland). The old institution of grand juries still exists in some places, particularly the United States, to investigate whether enough evidence of a crime exists to bring someone to trial.


  • One often-cited abuse of the nullification power is the acquittal by bigoted juries of whites who commit crimes (lynching, for example) against blacks. That repellent practice cannot be directly arrested without jeopardizing important constitutional protections-the double jeopardy bar and the jury's power of nullification. But the revulsion and sense of shame fostered by that practice fueled the civil rights movement, which in turn made possible the enactment of major civil rights legislation. That same movement spurred on the revitalization of the equal protection clause and, in particular, the recognition of the right to be tried before a jury selected without bias. The lessons we learned from these abuses helped to create a climate in which such abuses could not so easily thrive.
  • If a juror accepts as the law that which the judge states then that juror has accepted the exercise of absolute authority of a government employee and has surrendered a power and a right that once was the citizen's safeguard of liberty.
    • George Bancroft, The History of the Formation of the Constitution of the United States, (1882).
  • I think a mistrial from a hung jury is a safeguard to liberty. In many areas it is the sole means by which one or a few may stand out against an overwhelming contemporary public sentiment. Nothing should interfere with its exercise.
  • In the ultimate analysis, only the jury can strip a man of his liberty or his life.
    • Tom C. Clark, Irvin v. Dowd, 366 U.S. 717, 722 (1961).
  • Make every private Sentinel, every Musquetier, both Judge, Jury, and Executioner.
    • Daniel Defoe, "Memoirs of the Church of Scotland" (1717).
  • The people themselves have it in their power effectually to resist usurpation, without being driven to an appeal to arms. An act of usurpation is not obligatory; it is not law; and any man may be justified in his resistance. Let him be considered as a criminal by the general government, yet only his fellow citizens can convict him; they are his jury, and if they pronounce him innocent, not all the powers of Congress can hurt him; and innocent they certainly will pronounce him, if the supposed law he resisted was an act of usurpation.
    • 2 Elliot's Debates, 94; 2 Bancroft's History of the Constitution, p. 267. Quoted in Sparf and Hansen v. U.S., 156 U.S. 51 (1895), Dissenting Opinion: Gray, Shiras, JJ., 144.
  • A fox should not be of the jury at a goose's trial.
  • Were I called upon to decide whether the people had best be omitted in the Legislative or Judiciary department, I would say it is better to leave them out of the Legislative. The execution of the laws is more important than the making of them.
  • Jurors now expect us to have a DNA test for just about every case, they expect us to have the most advanced technology possible, and they expect it to look like it does on television.
  • When juries refuse to convict on the basis of what they think are unjust laws, they are performing their duty as jurors.
    • Jack B. Weinstein, Considering Jury “Nullification”: When May and Should a Jury Reject the Law to Do Justice, 30 Am. Crim. L. Rev. 239, 240 (1993).
Quotes reported in James William Norton-Kyshe, The Dictionary of Legal Quotations (1904), p. 139-145.
  • [T]ake it to be the bounden duty of the Judge to lay down the law as it strikes him, and that of the jury to accede to it, unless they have superior knowledge on the subject.
  • Though a definition, or maxim in law, without an exception, it is said, is hardly to be found, yet this I take to be a maxim, without an exception: ad quœstionem juris non respondent juratores; ad quœstionem facti non respondent judices.
  • It is of the greatest consequence to the law of England and to the Subject, that the powers of the Judge and Jury are kept distinct: that the Judge determines the law, and the Jury the fact: and if ever they come to be confounded it will prove the confusion and destruction of the law of England.
    • Lord Hardwicke, Rex v. Poole (1737), K. B. Cas. temp. Hardw. 28.
  • Blackstone considers trial by jury as having been universally established amongst all the northern nations, and so interwoven in their very Constitution, that the earliest accounts of the one gives us also some traces of the other.
    • Blackstone, Vol. III., p. 349; St. Com. Vol. III., 8th ed., Bk. 5, c. 11, p. 532.
  • Ad questiones facti non respondent judices; ad qvestiones legis non respondent juratores: Judges do not answer questions of fact; juries do not answer questions of law.
    • Co. Litt. 295.
  • The jury cannot find evidence : they must find facts.
  • It is certainly a rule that the jury must find facts, and not merely evidence of facts.
    • Buller, J., Newling v. Francis (1789), 3 T. R. 198.
  • It is the Court, not the jury, who are to determine the law.
    • Richard Aston, J., Pillans v. Van Mierop (1764), 3 Burr. Part IV. 1675.
  • I am as jealous of the rights of juries as of those of the Court.
  • The constitution trusts, that, under the direction of a Judge, they will not usurp a jurisdiction which is not in their province. They do not know, and are not presumed to know the law; they are not sworn to decide the law; they are not required to decide the law. If it appears upon the record, they ought to leave it there, or they may find the facts subject to the opinion of the Court upon the law. But further, upon the reason of the thing, and the eternal principles of justice, the jury ought not to assume the jurisdiction of the law. As I said before, they do not know, and are not presumed to know anything of the matter; they do not understand the language in which it is conceived, or the meaning of the terms.3 They have no rule to go by but their affections and wishes. It is said, if a man gives a right sentence upon hearing one side only, he is a wicked Judge, because he is right by chance only, and has neglected taking the proper method to be informed; so the jury who usurp the judicature of law, though they happen to be right, are themselves wrong, because they are right by chance only, and have not taken the constitutional way of deciding the question.1 It is the duty of the Judge, in all cases of general justice, to tell the jury how to do right, though they have it in their power to do wrong, which is a matter entirely between God and their own consciences.
  • The man, who laugh'd but once to see an ass
    Mumbling to make the cross-grain'd thistles pass,
    Might laugh again to see a jury chaw
    The prickles of unpalatable law.
    • Drydeti, The Medal.
  • I am sure from my experience of juries that, in a criminal case especially, they will obey the law as declared by the Judge; they will take the law from the Judge, whether they like it or do not like it, and apply it honestly to the facts before them.
  • It is a strange, wild jurisdiction, where the jurors are judges both of law and fact, and ignorant country fellows2 are to determine the nicest points of law.
    • Wilmot, J., Doe v. Roe (1760), 2 Burr. Part IV. 1047.
  • The moment juries or judges go beyond their functions, and take upon themselves to lay down the law or find the facts, not according to the law as it is, but according to the law as they think it ought to be, then the certainty of the law is at an end; there is nothing to rely upon; we are left to the infinite variety and uncertainty of human opinion; to caprice which may at any moment influence the best of us, to feelings and prejudices, perhaps excellent in themselves, but which may distort or disturb our judgment, and distract our minds from the single simple operation of ascertaining whether the facts proved bring the case within the law as we are bound to take it.
  • You all very well know what deference I always pay, and ever will, to that part of the office of a jury which properly belongs to them. In regard to the law, I have always been as tenacious of the proper function of a Judge, as I have been of that of the jury. I never will, while I have the honour of executing the office of a Judge, attempt to controul or influence their minds in respect of damages; but only submit to them such observations as occur to me upon the evidence.
    • Wilmot, L.C.J., Wilkes v. Lord Halifax (1763), 19 How. St. Tr. 1410.
  • It will be your verdict, and not the verdict of the Court; we are responsible for the law, it is our duty to state the law, and I have laid down principles from great authority.
    • Earl of Clonwell, L.C.J., Jackson's Case (1795), 25 How. St. Tr. 871.
  • The best way in which a jury can execute their duty is to give their verdict according to the evidence before them.
    • Giles Rooke, J., Trial of Redhead alias Yorke (1795), 25 How. St. Tr. 1149.
  • If I were master of eloquence I would not make the decision of this cause a stage upon which I would display that eloquence. Those things which are very proper for advocates to do,1 become very improper for the Judge/who has nothing to do, but to state to the jury the short grounds upon which the cause ought to proceed.
  • Our trials by juries are of such consideration in our law that we allow their determination to be best and most advantageous to the subject; and therefore less evidence is required than by the civil law. So said Fortescue in his commendation of the laws of England.
    • Holt, L.C.J., Vaughan's Case (1696), 13 How. St. Tr. 535.
  • Upon trials, the jury ought not to have any evidence laid before them but what is proper.
    • Probyn, J., Rex v. Inhabitants of Preston upon the Hill (1736), Burrow (Settlement Cases), 85.
  • Le direction del Judge in civil pleas doit estre hypothetic, si le fait soil trove tiel, donque pur le plaintiff ou defendant, mes ne ungues positive ou coercive, ne le jury finable: The direction of the Judge in civil pleas ought to be hypothetick, if the fact be found such, then for the plaintiff or defendant, but never positive or coercive, nor is the jury finable.
    • Vaughan, L.C.J., Bushel's Case (1670), Jones's (Sir Thoe.) Rep. 16.
  • Le jury est perjure si le verdict soit contra lour proper judgment, coment per direction del Court, car lour serement oblige eux al lour judgment proper: The jury is perjured if the verdict be against their own judgment, tho' by direction of the Court, for their oath obliges them to their own judgment.
    • Vaughan, L.C.J., Bushel's Case (1670), Jones's (Sir Thos.) Rep. 17.
  • Est le duty dun Judge de examiner le Jury, et de Juror al responder, et si ne voet respondre, ou rendra verdict contr1 lour response, en lun et lauter case, il est finable: It is the duty of a Judge to examine the Jury, and of a Juror to answer, and if he will not answer, or shall give a verdict contrary to their answer, in either case he is finable.2—Vaughan, L.C.J., Bushel's Case (1670), Jones's (Sir Thos.) Rep. 15.
  • We do not desire that the unanimity of a jury should be the result of anything but the unanimity of conviction. It is true that a single juryman, or two or three constituting a small minority, may, if their own convictions are not strong and deeply rooted, think themselves justified in giving way to the majority. If is very true, if jurymen have only doubts or weak convictions, they may yield to the stronger and more determined view of their fellows; but I hold it to be of the essence of a juryman's duty, if he has a firm and deeply rooted conviction, either in the affirmative or the negative of the issue he has to try, not to give up that conviction, although the majority may be against him, from any desire to purchase his freedom from confinement or constraint, or the various other inconveniences to which jurors are subject.
  • In my mind, he was guilty of no error, he was chargeable with no exaggeration, he was betrayed by his fancy into no metaphor, who once said, that all we see about us, Kings, Lords, and Commons, the whole machinery of the State, all the apparatus of the system, and its varied workings, end in simply bringing twelve good men into a box.
  • There is no distinction between a good jury and a common jury.
    • Buller, J., King v. Perry (1793), 5 T. R. 460.
  • It is infinitely better that a cause should be tried upon a view had by any twelve than by six of the first twelve; or by any six; or by fewer than six; or even without any view at all, than that the trial should be delayed from year to year, perhaps for ever: it can never be proper or necessary to grant a view which is asked and used for so unjust a purpose.
  • It is and must be admitted, that publications which are calculated with a view to prejudice the minds of men who ought to come to compose a jury, without any pre-conceived opinions to decide upon the subject—I say it must be admitted that any publications of that kind, whether made by the party interested in the question, or by strangers, is sufficient reason to put off the trial of the cause, in order that the minds of those who are to decide may return to a proper tone, and that they may not be put into a situation which no man sitting in judgment ought to be in, namely, having formed a prior opinion upon the point; for that juryman would be extremely disgraced who should put himself into that box, having made up his mind upon that subject before he heard it discussed; non sum doctus rere instructus is the language a juryman ought to hold; he ought to have no wishes in the matter.
    • Kenyon, L.C.J., Proceedings against the Dean of St. Asaph (1783), 21 How. St. Tr. 869.
  • I have always told a jury that if a fact is fully proved by two witnesses it is as good as if proved by a hundred.
    • Butler, J., Calliand v. Vaughan (1798), 2 Bos. & Pull. 212.
  • The jury can't find a negative, unless' such an one as is proved by an affirmative.
  • Challenges being for the sake of justice, they are greatly favoured in the law.
    • Per Cur., Kynaston v. Mayor of Shrewsbury (1737), Andrews' Rep. 87.
  • I have had the honour of being a considerable time on the bench; I cannot now pretend to bear fatigue as well as formerly, but I hope I shall take care that the jurors or myself shall not be in danger of being destroyed.
    • Ward, J., Trial of Mary Heath (1744), 18 How. St. Tr. 23.
  • We are all desirous to sit as long as we can, but necessity justifies that which it compels; the strength of man is not adequate to this. Lord Mansfield, as little inclined to give way as any man, did give way at a certain hour in the case of Lord Pomfret.
    • Lord Kenyon, Stone's Case (1796), 25 How. St. Tr. 1290.
  • We have a duty to discharge to the individual as well as to the public. We cannot make a man serve at the hazard of his life.
    • Pennefather, L.C.J. (1843), Queen against O'Connell, 5 St. Tr. (N. S.) 86.
  • The hungry judges soon the sentence sign,
    And wretches hang, that jurymen may dine.
  • “If you have a case where the law is clearly on your side, but the facts and justice seem to be against you,” said an old lawyer to his son, who was about to begin the practice of the law, “urge upon the jury the vast importance of sustaining the law. On the other hand, if the law is against you, or doubtful, and the facts show that your case is founded in justice, insist that justice be done though the heavens fall.” “But,” said the young man, “how shall I manage a case where both the law and the facts are dead against me?” “In that case,” replied the old lawyer, “talk around it,” and “the worse it is, the harder you pound the table,” adds a modern commentator.
    • Byron Kosciusko Elliott, William Frederick Elliott The Work of the Advocate: a Practical Treatise (1911) Second ed., p.390, Bobbs-Merrill, Indianapolis, Indiana
  • If you’re weak on the facts and strong on the law, pound the law. If you’re weak on the law and strong on the facts, pound the facts. If you’re weak on both, pound the table.

See also

Wikipedia has an article about: