The Case for a 21st Century Approach
Author: Bethel Erastus-Obilo
Reason Curve, Jury Competence, and the English Criminal Justice System, a cross-jurisdictional and cross-disciplinary book, seeks to stimulate discussion and extend the debate in the area of criminal trials in light of the absence of an articulated explanation for a verdict. The book traces the history and development of the jury, from the Carolingian kings, its advancement in the English Courts following papal intervention, the impact of the Magna Carta, to its general use, current curtailment in England and Wales, and re-emergence in Continental Europe. Central to the book's submission is the dictum that the jurors' franchise to deliver a cryptic verdict is 'a matter between them and their conscience.' In light of human and civil rights movements, the book advances arguments that a cryptic verdict may offend the principle of fair trials in criminal justice. This is amplified by the presence of a developing and significant body of law that demands that decisions by public officers be accompanied by articulated pronouncements regarding the basis for their decision. While the book does not contend with the sanctity of jury deliberations and recognizes the difficulties associated with reason articulation by lay assessors, it argues that the jury continuum provides a fertile ground not only for articulating a verdict in light of human experiences, but also for generating the reason curve, which provides legitimacy for that verdict. Furthermore, the reason curve argues that it is entirely possible for the jury to articulate its reasons provided the Criminal Justice System makes provisions not just to expect an explained verdict from the jury, but also provides it with the necessary facilities needed for compliance. Exploring research and sources in the fields of law and psychology in Europe, the USA, and other jurisdictions around the world, this book is written for an international audience as a catalyst for the student of legal jurisprudence who has interests in the concepts of reason, accountability, transparency, and human rights in the criminal justice system. It is also written for the cognitive and behavioral psychologist with an interest in lay decision-making in criminal trials. In the large legal jurisdictions of the USA and Canada, the right to a jury trial is enshrined in state articles. As such, there is less tinkering with the institution. In England and Wales where Parliament is supreme and the constitution is unwritten, no such right exists. Consequently, the government enjoys tremendous leeway in tinkering with the 'right to jury trial.' Whether or not the institution can evolve to deliver a 21st Century approach is a matter for full debate, research, and the march of time.