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'Vox Populi, Vox Dei’? A Comparative Investigation Into The (Un)Fairness Of The Jury Trial In The British And Italian Legal Systems.

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posted on 2018-11-13, 11:25 authored by Cristina d’Aniello
Behind the closed doors of the deliberation room, jurors determine another person’s fate. It is believed that, to grant fairness to trials, the decision of some judicial cases has to be referred to a panel of impartial peers. Yet, the occurrence of miscarriages of justice involving incorrect jury verdicts demonstrates that the jury system may be failing to respond to those democratic needs that constituted the foundations of its introduction. In an effort to identify the causes of the malfunctioning and to propose solutions, this thesis has investigated the matter through a comparative approach that looks at two crucial differences between British and Italian juries: the presence/absence of professionals (judges) on jury panels and the presence/absence of a requirement for juries to justify their verdicts. Far from being mere procedural aspects, these characteristics play a crucial role in the deliberation process, as this research found through an analysis of the results yielded by two interconnected empirical studies: interviews with Italian judges and mock jury experiments. Results from the studies suggest that both jury composition and motivated verdicts have an impact on juries’ behaviour, errors, and deliberation dynamics. Beneficial and detrimental effects of the two variables were considered in order to suggest solutions for an improvement to the functioning of jury trials. Accordingly, the aid of a professional juror, purposely trained to instruct and direct (not influencing) the panel of peers, could improve legal fairness of deliberations. Additionally, motivated verdicts should be required, since they increase jurors’ tendency to provide legally-oriented decisions. Given the high real-world impact of the matter, the implementation of these and further research suggestions is crucial to move towards the ‘fair trial’ that the jury system promised to grant.



Smith, Lisa; Gunby, Clare

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Department of Criminology

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University of Leicester

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