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JURY TRIAL

A civil or criminal trial in which a jury decides any disputed issues of fact. The number of jurors is usually 12 in a criminal trial; the number varies from state to state in a civil trial.

(2) Obs. Free-men met in a body, in England, to decide guilt or innocence. Their decisions made up the common law.

In a jury trial, the jury is selected by the parties through a process called voir dire, where the judge or parties ask jurors questions in order to determine their biases and opinions. (Each side gets to reject a certain number of potential jurors.) After the jury is chosen and sworn in, the parties give opening arguments, present their evidence and give closing arguments. The jury then deliberates; when it reaches a decision, it returns to the courtroom and announces the verdict.

The role of the jury is to decide issues of fact. Parties are entitled to a jury trial by the federal constitution in those types of cases, such as breach of contract, which existed in 1789, the effective date of the constitution. Kinds of cases that have come into existence since then, however, such as divorce (which in 1789 still fell under the religious courts) and actions in juvenile courts, are not guaranteed jury trials. States are free to make jury trials available for such actions, but few have. In fact, only Texas and Georgia permit jury trials for divorces.

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