Legal Studies 3080

Jury Duty

The most serious criminal cases are always tried by judge and jury; and in all but the least serious cases, the defendant can choose to be tried by judge and jury or by a judge alone. This, of course, begs the question, what difference does it make? The fact is that there are both advantages and disadvantages to being tried by a jury rather than a judge alone.

Something for you to consider:

Before continuing, imagine for a moment that you have been accused of a crime for which you can opt to be tried by a jury or not. Review the information below, and then decide which sort of trial would you likely opt for if you had the choice? Why?

Ultimately, the choice would depend on the crime you were charged with and circumstances involved. Your defence counsel would be the best person to advise you in the matter 


  • Your lawyer might be better able to sway a jury than a judge who has heard it many times before.
  • Since a jury verdict must be unanimous, your lawyer has to convince only one juror out of 12 that you are innocent.
  • A jury will not be likely to be bound by the precedents of similar cases; jurors might see things more openly.
  • Your lawyer might be able to fill the jury with people likely to be sympathetic to you.
  • A judge might be bored and jaded, having conducted so many trials in the past whereas a jury will listen with fresh ears and receptive minds.


  • A judge will recognize lawyers' methods of swaying opinion and will not be fooled by them; he or she will judge you by the facts alone.
  • A judge is an expert in the law and will understand all the legal technicalities.
  • A judge will not be intimidated by the Crown counsel or other jurors.
  • A judge isn't as likely as jurors to be swayed by irrelevant matters, such as your appearance or lifestyle.