Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) discussed the history behind jury trials and an independent judiciary.
The sixth amendment guarantees the right to a trial by jury in all criminal prosecutions. This lesson explores the origins of the right to trial by jury, how juries function and current issues surrounding them. Students will be able to describe the benefits and drawbacks of jury trials and determine if there should be additional legislation securing this right to a trial by jury in criminal prosecutions.
Begin class by having the students answer the following questions:
Review the students' answers and address any misconceptions. Introduce the idea of juries and jury trials by showing the following video clips. Have the student answer the questions as they view the videos. Students can use the handout to guide them.
HANDOUT: Jury Trials in Criminal Cases (Google Doc)
VIDEO CLIP: The History of Jury Trials in the United States (3:26)
VIDEO CLIP: Justice Breyer on Impartial Juries (1:07)
VIDEO CLIP: Jury Selection (1:39)
EXPLORATION OF CURRENT DISCUSSIONS ON JURY TRIALS:
Review the introductory videos and discuss the history of jury trials and how they work. Address any misconceptions and introduce the following two video clips. Have the student answer the questions associated with each question.
VIDEO CLIP: Costs of Jury Trials (3:37)
VIDEO CLIP: Plea Deals and the Decrease in Jury Trials (3:09)
Using the information from the previous video clips, have the students respond to the following prompt. This can either be a written response or a class discussion. Students should be support their stance with examples and evidence from the video clips.
After discussing the students' thought on the previous prompt, have the students answer the following question as an exit Slip:
Interview a Juror- Find someone who has been selected for jury duty. Interview them and ask questions to learn about their experiences as a juror. Possible questions could include: What was the process like? Were they selected for a trial? How long was the process? What did they learn from this experience?
Be a Jury Expert- Find and research a court case that is in the news. Choose either the prosecution or defense and be a jury expert for that side. Write a summary of characteristics of potential jurors who your side would like on the jury and a list of characteristics of potential juror who your side would not like on the jury. Develop a series of questions that you might ask to find this information out.