Jury Service and its role in Democracy and Civic Participation


JuryService and its role in Democracy and Civic Participation

JuryService and its role in Democracy and Civic Participation

Thejury service is an important aspect of judicial processes thatpromotes both democracy and civic participation in the Americansociety. Even though the services of the jury have dwindled over theyears, the American jury system still remains a key part in promotingas well as supporting the public participation of American inrelation to their civic rights. The institution was initiated ataround 1836 by Alexis de Tocqueville, who had the idea thatinitialization of jury services of the American court system willlead to greater civic participation (Heberle,2014).The discussion on the jury service will illustrate its importance inpromoting democracy and facilitating civic participation.

Duringa court proceeding, the jury is tasked with the responsibility ofdetermining whether a defendant is guilty or not guilty. It is notwithin their constitutional mandate to decide the type of sentencethat their client should face (Gastilet al, 2011).In order to come to the final decision, the jury does listen to allthe evidence that are provided to the judge, they are hen tasked todecide what leads to the fact and the judge would only advise them onwhat is relevant to the court. A jury then takes their time and is atmany times required to come up to an anonymous decision while amajority decision is always acceptable.

Today,while reflecting on the role played by jury trials towards promotionof civic participation by the public, many scholars tend to overlookhow important they are (Bennet, 1998). People have continuouslycontinued to question the Department of jury and thus required to bereminded that the jury just like any other institution plays a hugerole in trying to promote and maintain the public participation ofcitizens in the civic affairs.

Manycritics have complained about the small voter turnout of citizensduring an election, even though there is no distinctive study done.According to Heberle(2014),citizens who have served on a criminal jury or had had their casesdetermined by a jury, were more motivated to participate insubsequent elections when they were called upon as compared to thosemembers who have never participated in any jury-related platform.

Inhis book thejury and democracy,Gastil John takes into account court and voting records for almost13500 people who have served in jury related platform in their lives(Gastil,2010).The study wanted to test the hypothesis that serving on a jury canhave the subsequent effect of changing the perspectives of citizenson how they view the government, the civic process and also forthemselves. Of keen interest is that the study discovered that theexperience of serving on a jury has the impact of increasing voters’turn-up to those who previously neglected the electoral process. Thestudy also discovered that the experience of serving on a jury alsochanged their participation in media, political arena and groups.They now report to follow actively on what goes around in the countryand wanting as much as possible to be part of all political action inthe country (Gastil,2010).It is very clear that the jury system can influence and bring newideas and vision into the democratic system just simply promoting theincorporation of a jury into our court systems.

Whencitizens are empowered to deliberate on their own and be allowed tomake real decisions, then it has the impact of improving thedemocracy. The jury duties have the ability to making the commoncitizens who not interested in politics and also civic duties to bein a position to reevaluate them. It makes them to vote and alsoparticipate in all political making decisions (Gastilet al, 2011).The experience even makes them to start following and participatingin public rallies and platforms. By just sitting down anddeliberating with other members of the jury a plebeian now convertsinto a fully responsible citizen. The art of deliberation alone hasthe effect of making one feel proud to know that he or she is part ofa justice process, something that makes them feel good from theinside.

Whenfirst called upon to be part of a jury many American, tend to avoidperceiving as a waste of their time. Many even go a great length,avoiding it completely. The idea of spending hours within a lockedroom deliberating the facts of a given case scares many. But as manycome later on to realize, the experience is quite transformative andwhen they serve on a more frequent basis, then they begin to have asense of satisfaction of fulfilling their constitutional rights(Dwyer,2002).This has the effect of making to participate in all the fields ofcivic platform. One begins to feel more connected to the governmentand thus, is highly motivated towards being part of the governmentdecision-making.

Psychologistsdo argue that, when a small group of different people drawn fromdifferent places does sit in a room to deliberating on a case, theirindividual perspectives being combined, they tend to have the feelingof a common purpose which leads to effective relationships (Gastil&amp Weiser, 2006).They have the priory of impacting on social capital, an aspect thatdraws them together, making them achieve a task that none of themcould ever do on their own. The feeling is always empowering andtransformative in nature as it leads to a future working together ofthe individuals.

Theempowerment aspect of juries may explain why jurors emerge from courtrooms feeling empowered and having self-satisfaction about life. Theybegin to appreciate the role played by different urgencies such asthe government and the constitution all together (Gastil&amp Weiser, 2006).Any small part they find to actively participate in civicparticipation, they then act on it. Cleary here we can see that thejury does play an important role towards democratic participation.

Onthe other hand also, members of the public who have their casesdetermined by a public jury also seem to increase their participationin civic platforms. Let’s take a case where a citizen who wasinnocent from the very beginning start to fear that his mind endbeing found guilty as the case proceeds (Heberle,2014).When the final stage draws near, the jury unanimously found theaccused innocent. The defender will start to have belief in thejudicial system and also his government. He or she will feel that heis living in a country where he is respected and that his rights arerespected. Such an individual with such spirits always has a tendencyon following what the government and will be highly motivated toparticipate in influencing his/her local community whenever possible.In times of election participation, it’s very rare to see such aperson not turning out to be part of the electoral system (Gastilet al, 2011).The jury system helps the citizens to feel some sense of fairness andrespect something that will act as a motivator for them.

Amongthe many duties that jurors are tasked with, they have managed to bea force of positive efforts for social changes as in the case whenthey have publicly come out and expressed all the details of publicoutcries on civil trials of environmental pollution by companies andalso when they stood firm by their decision of refusing to convictthe accused on the merits of conscience (Heberle,2014).Such factors end up motivating others to accomplish their civic andconstitutional rights we see many citizens now accepting theinvitation to be part of a jury.

Inconclusion, a jury plays an important role towards democracy andcivic participation by the citizens. Its role in promoting the act ofcivic participation has been eminent since its first inception andcontinues to be seen now. It is a tool that needs to be utilized inorder to nurture the spirit of democracy and civic participationamong the American citizens.


Bennett,W. (1998). The UnCivic Culture: Communication, Identity, and the Riseof Lifestyle Politics. PS:Political Science &amp Politics,31(04),741-761.

Dwyer,W. (2002). Inthe hands of the people.New York: Thomas Dunne Books, Saint Martin`s Press.

Dzur,A. (2013). TheJury and Democracy: How Jury Deliberation Promotes Civic Engagementand Political Participation.New York: Oxford University Press

Gastil,J. (2010). Thejury and democracy.New York: Oxford University Press.

Gastil,J., &amp Weiser, P. (2006). Jury Service as an Invitation toCitizenship: Assessing the Civic Value of InstitutionalizedDeliberation. PolicyStudies Journal,34(4),605-627.

Heberle,R. (2014). Punishment, participatory democracy and the jury.ContempPolitTheory,13(2),e4-e6

Gastil,J.E., Deess, P., Weiser, P., Cindy, W. (2011). Thejury and democracy: how jury deliberation promotes civic engagementand political participation. (2011). ChoiceReviews Online,48(10),48-5966-48-5966.