High School Students
Trial by Jury
Following are some teaching activities you can use to demonstrate the importance of juries. You might also want to check out our background resources on juries.
- Although the Sixth Amendment guarantees individuals’ rights to a public trial, judges sometimes keep jurors identities secret to protect their privacy, especially in trials involving organized crime, for example, where juror safety becomes an issue. Since the O.J. Simpson trial, judges have been increasingly protecting the identities of jurors. In the trials of Theodore Kaczynski, Timothy McVeigh, and the police officers accused of beating Rodney King, for example, jurors were kept anonymous. Why? Does this conflict, in your opinion, with the Sixth Amendment’s provisions for jury trials? How do public trials protect defendants?
- Interview your parents or some other adult about jury service. Have they served? Were they dismissed? If not, for how long did they have to serve? What surprised them about the case or procedures? What did they learn? Did they feel they were fulfilling an important civic duty by serving?
- Find out about the structure of the jury system in your state. [A good resource is FindLaw’s state resources index.] Are grand juries used? In all criminal cases? How many people must agree to issue an indictment? How many people serve on a petit jury? Must they reach a unanimous verdict? Make an argument for or against your state’s system as compared to others.
- Look at the information available about jury duty in your county (see FindLaw's state resources index). What can jurors expect when they report for jury duty? What must they bring? What must they prepare in advance? What will happen if they do not report? Write a fictional short story about a juror on an interesting local trial.
- Research the history of women and jury service, looking especially at the 19 th Amendment and the 1975 Supreme Court case Taylor v. Louisiana. Did you know that until 1966, women did not serve on juries in Alabama, Mississippi, and South Dakota, and that women became eligible for jury service in all federal and state courts only in 1972? Write a paper supplying theories for why this might be, and why jury service is more inclusive now.
- In "A Comparative Analysis of Jury Systems," students (grades 11–12) compare the U.S. jury system with the systems in France and Germany, and critically analyze the U.S. jury system. (This lesson was originally available through the National Constitution Center's site, but is now archived elsewhere on the Internet; link goes to archived lesson.)
- "Many Are Called; Few Are Chosen: A Jury Selection Simulation" aims to familiarize students with the jury system and their role in its development. After learning about the history of the jury system, how a citizen becomes a juror, and the jury's role, students take part in a simulation in which they become potential jurors for a case. Grades 10–12. (This lesson was originally available through the National Constitution Center's site, but is now archived elsewhere on the Internet; link goes to archived lesson.)
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