Jury Instructions as Constitutional Education
71 Pages Posted: 1 Mar 2012 Last revised: 9 Mar 2013
Date Written: March 1, 2012
Juries are central to the constitutional structure of America. This article articulates a theory of the jury as a “constitutional teaching moment,” establishing a historical and theoretical basis for reclaiming the educative value of jury service. Its proposal is straightforward and easy to implement – use jury instructions to educate jurors about the Constitution.
This article addresses the fundamental question of why, despite an unquestioned acceptance of a constitutional role of the jury, our criminal justice system does not explain this role to jurors on jury duty. The article seeks to answer the question of how we can educate jurors about the jury’s constitutional role, while at the same time exploring the larger theoretical concerns with using the jury to renew civic engagement. Tracing the theme of the jury as a place of constitutional education from the Founding to the modern Supreme Court, this article argues that this constitutional awareness was central to the jury’s reputation and status in society. The article concludes that reclaiming this sense of constitutional awareness through jury service will strengthen the jury as an institution, as a decision-maker, and as a creator of democratic citizens.
Keywords: jury, jury service, jury duty, jury instructions, constitution, constitutional education, constitutional literacy, juror
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