A jury serves an important role in the Canadian justice system. During a trial, the jury listens to the evidence presented in court. The jury then makes their own unbiased decision about the truth or honesty of the testimony given by the witnesses to come to a decision. In a criminal trial, the jury will deliver a verdict on the guilt or innocence of the accused on trial.
For many years juries have played an important role in deciding the outcome of legal cases. Juries continue to decide legal cases that affect the future of Canadian society.
Criminal Trials with a Jury
Juries in criminal cases decide whether an accused is guilty or not guilty of a criminal offence. Not all accused will have a jury trial. Only an accused charged with an offence that has a potential jail sentence of five years or more can choose to have a jury trial.
In a criminal jury trial, there are 12 jurors. There will be a prosecutor referred to as “the Crown” and an accused referred to as the defence. There may be more than one accused in some cases. The job of the jury in a criminal trial is to decide whether they believe that the accused committed the criminal offence beyond a reasonable doubt.
To decide that something is “beyond a reasonable doubt”, the jury must believe, beyond a reasonable doubt in their mind, that the accused committed the offence. This decision must be unanimous. A reasonable doubt is based on reason and common sense. The jury’s decisions should be logically connected to the evidence presented. A jury should not base their decision on sympathy or prejudice. At the end of the trial, the judge will explain what a reasonable doubt means in the context of the case. As a juror, you are not expected to know the law.