Nolo's Plain-English Law Dictionary


A group of people selected to apply the law, as stated by the judge, to the facts of a case and render a decision, called the verdict. Traditionally, an American jury was made up of 12 people who had to arrive at a unanimous decision. But today, in many states, juries in civil cases may be composed of as few as six members, and nonunanimous verdicts may be permitted. (Almost every state still requires 12-person, unanimous verdicts for criminal trials.) The philosophy behind the jury system is that -- especially in a criminal case -- an accused's guilt or innocence should be judged by a group of people from the same community ("a jury of peers"), acting impartially and without bias. Recently, some courts have been experimenting with increasing the traditionally rather passive role of the jury by encouraging jurors to take notes and ask questions.