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THE ROLE OF THE JUDGE AND JURY

There is a very subtle difference between the judge and the jury: the judge deals with questions of law,
while the jury with questions of fact. The difference between the questions of law and the questions of fact is
also a very subtle one. An example of a question of fact is the issue whether the defendant was at a particular
place at a particular time. This issue is called by lawyers a question of primary fact. On the other hand, in a
criminal trial, where the intention is relevant, a question of fact will require an evaluation of all the surrounding
circumstances in coming to a conclusion about the defendant’s state of mind. For example, in a shoplifting, if
the defendant was in a state of confusion resulted from the side effects of medication and he had no intention to
steal goods, the jury would be called upon to elucidate these facts. This is no longer conclusive in the complex
cases of fraud or deception, where these issues are more important than the primary facts. Moreover, the judge
will have to deal with a question of law when defining the constituent elements of the offence of law.
The role of the judge in a court of law is a passive one. He has the role of the arbiter of the law, who
controls the trial and directs the jury. The length of a trial may vary from a few hours to a month or more; the
average length of a contested case is just under nine hours, which is about two days of court time. If there are
points of law involving admissibility of evidence which are easy to decide upon without too much argue, the
judge may exclude the jury. Otherwise, the jury will listen to and form opinions about the veracity of witnesses.
In this case, the judge will direct the jury to reach a verdict of guilt or innocence. The judge will be required to
direct the jury to give a verdict of “not guilty” if a conviction cannot, as a matter of law, be sustained in a case,
during a trial. The judge cannot ignore such a direction, the resulting verdict being called a direct acquittal. The
judge will also sum up the case for the jury, before it retires to consider a verdict. In the summing up, the judge
will summarize the case, explain the legal issues in contention, comment on factors that lend weight to or cast
doubt on certain evidence, from an independent and impartial standpoint. If the jury ignores the judge’s
explanation of the law when drawing a conclusion or if the jury returns a verdict suspect of coming against the
weight of evidence, the verdict will be called perverse.
The jury is considered the arbiter of the fact, who deals with all the issues of fact. The jurors will secretly
deliberate about whom they believe and disbelieve. They must form a collective viewpoint about the case, as
close to reality as possible, resulted from the evidence before them. After determining whether the defendant’s
actions constitute the offence charged, the jury retires and is not allowed to interfere until a decision is reached.
If the jurors cannot agree and if every effort of coming to a conclusion fails, a new jury will be called and the
case will be retried.
At first, the decision of the jury in a trial court had to be unanimous, although it was usually requiring a
new trial of the same case. This problem was solved in 1967, when The Criminal Justice Act was adopted. It
introduced the principle of majority in the decision reached by the jury. Nowadays, it is possible to acquit a
convict if ten jurors agree on a verdict, even if the jury consists of eleven or twelve jurors, or if nine agree when
the jury consists of ten jurors. If a member of a twelve parties jury dies during the course of a trial, the trial will
go on, even if the decision will have to be reached by eleven jurors. It will stop if the number of jurors
decreases below ten.
Usually, the decision of the jury cannot be changed by an appeal. The Court of Appeal will not reopen a
case or reconsider the decision made by the jury, unless there had been a mistake in the use of the right
procedure. If this happens, it means that the judge will fail to conduct the trial correctly and the case is retried
by the Court of Appeal.

TEME REFERAT (la alegere):

1. Mercy to the criminal may be cruelty to people.


2. Dura lex, sed lex.
3. Lookers-on see more than players. (Cel ce privește la joc mai bine judecă decât cel în joc.)
4. A fault confessed is half redressed. (Păcatul mărturisit e pe jumătate iertat.)
5. Corruption of the best becomes the worst.
6. Murder will out.