Juries and the Criminal Constitution

Meghan J. Ryan

Southern Methodist University - Dedman School of Law


Alabama Law Review, Forthcoming
SMU Dedman School of Law Legal Studies Research Paper No. 121

Judges are regularly deciding criminal constitutional issues based on changing societal values. For example, they are determining whether police officer conduct has violated society’s "reasonable expectations of privacy" under the Fourth Amendment and whether a criminal punishment fails to comport with the "evolving standards of decency that mark the progress of a maturing society" under the Eighth Amendment. Yet judges are not trained to assess societal values, nor do they, in assessing them, ordinarily consult data to determine what those values are. Instead, judges turn inward, to their own intuitions, morals, and values, to determine these matters. But judges’ internal assessments of societal standards are likely not representative of society’s morals and values — because judges, themselves, are ordinarily not representative of the communities that they serve. Juries, on the other hand, are constitutionally required to be drawn from a representative cross-section of the community. Further, because juries are composed of several different individuals, they may draw on a broader range of knowledge and expertise in making their decisions. The historically trusted body to protect defendants from an overbearing government, juries, rather than judges, should be the ones empowered to determine these criminal constitutional moral matters.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 54

Keywords: Jury, Juries, Eighth Amendment, Fourth Amendment, Cruel and Unusual, Excessive Fines, Reasonableness, Morality, Judges, Representativeness, Apprendi, Reasonable Expectations of Privacy, Search and Seizure, Competency, Institutional Competencies, Constitutional Interpretation, Constitution

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Date posted: June 22, 2013 ; Last revised: May 16, 2014

Suggested Citation

Ryan, Meghan J., Juries and the Criminal Constitution (2012). Alabama Law Review, Forthcoming; SMU Dedman School of Law Legal Studies Research Paper No. 121. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2283393

Contact Information

Meghan J. Ryan (Contact Author)
Southern Methodist University - Dedman School of Law ( email )
P.O. Box 750116
Dallas, TX 75275
United States

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