Was the Jury Ever Self-Informing?

34 Pages Posted: 16 Jul 2001 Last revised: 19 Dec 2014

See all articles by Daniel M. Klerman

Daniel M. Klerman

University of Southern California Gould School of Law

Date Written: 2001


Until recently, there was a consensus that the medieval English jury was self-informing. That is, unlike the modern jury, the medieval jury based its verdict primarily on evidence it gathered, learned, or knew before trial. Recently, this consensus has been questioned by historians who argue that medieval jurors often had insufficient knowledge to convict without in-court witness testimony. This essay bolsters the consensus view that medieval jurors in criminal trials were self-informing by marshalling a wide array of new primary source evidence. It also shows, however, that some witnesses testified in medieval trials. Nevertheless, it argues that the appearance of witnesses does not undermine the idea that the jury was self-informing, because such witnesses appeared rarely and usually testified about collateral matters rather than about the defendant's guilt or innocence.

Suggested Citation

Klerman, Daniel M., Was the Jury Ever Self-Informing? (2001). 77 Southern California Law Review 123-50 (2003), USC Public Policy Research Paper No. 01-10, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=276120 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.276120

Daniel M. Klerman (Contact Author)

University of Southern California Gould School of Law ( email )

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