Washington International Law Journal


Jury trials are a necessary part of American and Australian jurisprudence. However, critics question whether both jurisdictions should consider eliminating or reforming jury trials. High-profile jury cases in Australia and the United States elicit criticism regarding the ongoing relevance of the institution. Jury trials function differently in both countries and hold different levels of public trust in the institution. Despite the criticisms of jury trials, neither country has engaged in serious conversations to abolition this ancient institution. This article discusses the trials of Lindy Chamberlain and Cardinal George Pell, placing the use of criminal jury trial in their ancient English historical perspective demonstrating the evolutionary nature of criminal jury trials. Despite the recognized importance of citizen participation in the criminal justice system, there have been constant changes to the jury trial as Anglo-American societies try to mitigate unjust results in criminal jury trials. Some injustices seem to flow from media involvement for or against the accused. Judges may make an active effort to protect juries and by proxy defendants. Jury trials are the preferred Anglo-American means of deciding criminal cases since jurors are viewed as a democratic representation of society. However, does that mean the decisions of jury trials should be treated as inviolable? Due to issues of mistrial by actions of the jury, appeals against their verdicts have been allowed in Australia since 1912; however, appellate judges have been reluctant to upset jury verdicts. This article addresses whether jury practice should be reformed to reduce verdicts that convict the innocent and how the jury process should be reformed. This article’s primary recommendation is that jury panels receive additional education before they begin criminal trials.