A jury trial is defined as a legal proceeding whereby a jury is used to decide or develop
findings of facts to be applied. A jury trial is different from a bench trial in that in bench trials
judges must decide. These trials are used in serious criminal cases in many legal systems
(Yerman, 2017). That is different in the US where juries are also employed in non-criminal
cases. In the US, one has an option of selecting trials by bench or juries in criminal trials. Juries
are made of regular citizens where the trial is being held. These are referred to as the jurors also
popularly called “judges of the facts” while the judge in the trial is called the “judge of the law”
(Yerman, 2017). This essay discusses why jury trials are better than bench trials with evidence
from US Supreme Court Cases.
The jurors ascertain whether the facts of the case are well proven. The judges of the facts
also determine if the evidence tabled by the prosecutor is enough to accuse him or her something
which makes many prefer jury trials over bench trials as noted by Conrad & Clements (2018).
Questions on when to use jury trials or not have been raised in the US legal system in different
cases (Monaghan, 1974). For example, in the case, Codispoti v. Pennsylvania, 418 U.S. 506
(1974), the petitioner's trials happened before a judge of law in different proceedings for what is
termed as contemptuous conducts that were alleged to have happened during the criminal trial.
Before another judge, the two were accused and found guilty. The judge refused the petitioners’
request for a jury trial went ahead to impose sentences which followed each other. Codispoti
received six months for the six contempts and three months for the seventh one which would
aggregate to about three years. The Supreme Court gave certiorari raised the questions of
whether the accused ought to be given a jury trial or not.
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The court held that though a crime carrying an excess of the six-month sentence was
considered a serious break of law which should be tried before juries. In cases like Baldwin v.
New York, 399 U.S. 66, the contemnor was not to be tried before a jury since there was a high
chance upon his convicting he would result to increased imprisonment(Monaghan, 1975). For a
case like this involving post-verdict adjudication of contempts which occur during trials, the
sixth Amendment defines a trial by a jury when the sentence is higher than six months. However,
there is no sentence of high than six months that would be imposed for contempt.
According to Conrad & Clements (2018), Judges in the jury trials must listen to a dispute,
evaluation of the presented evidence, then decide on the facts in according to the rules of law and
the given instructions by the jurors. Usually, the jurors will give a verdict on guilty or not, and
the actual penalty is given by the judge. Many feel that juries are more of important checks
against state powers. Besides, the trial of the jury allows a way to integrate norms and values of
the community in the legal procedure. According to Conrad & Clements (2018), a jury of the
trial makes the law legitimate by the provision of opportunities for the society to confirm the
criminal status in applying to the given trial. Trials by jurors are important in educating citizens
what is regarded self-government.
Jury trials are seen as a better choice than a bench trial for various reasons. Firstly, the
proof for a civil case is usually much small compared to that of a criminal one. Though judges of
law firm understanding on the burden of proof the burden could change on the proof and the
defenses presented before the cases, juries in most case do not (Yerman, 2017). They only
understand and adherer to the burden of the preponderance of the evidence which says there is
high chance it happened that way than not. This results to the majority of jury’s finding the
plaintiffs showing a preponderance of the evidence in their favor (Yerman, 2017). This is crucial
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for a plaintiff’s job besides allowing the plaintiff to concentrate on the maximization of the
recover instead of deal with legal intricacy which the defense ought to be required to be
Another reason why jury trials are better than benches is that jurors are easy audience
compared to judges of law as noted by Conrad & Clements (2018). To communicate with jurors,
the accused is like giving a story. The jurors in the trial are highly likely analyzing the faults. The
jurors like listening to the dramas in the argument and testimonies were given then decided the
case on the basis on who wins in which circumstances. For judges on the bench, trials are more
likely to be swayed around the emotional aspect of the case. Bench trials also tend to be decided
by legal nuance and well knowledge of the law than it is for jurors. Therefore, bench trials might
give a different verdict because they analyzed the case as professional legal personnel instead of
a normal person.
Another benefit of jury trials over bench trials penalty the usual award. Jurors are ruled
by the passion of the case compared to judges of bench trials. A sad story on the suffering of the
victim or the harm by the defendant could result in much heftier award than a dispassionate
judge of a bench trial would give (Yerman, 2017). That explains why some of the biggest
verdicts are from jurors in USA history.
Jurors are highly likely to give a sympathetic hearing to an individual that is not affiliated
to the government than would judges of the bench trial who are representatives of the state. A
good example is a case Taylor v. Hayes, 418 U.S. 488 (1974). The defendant in Taylor was
sentenced in a post-trial adjudication on multiple charges of contempt to nine consecutive
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terms which included six months or more. The sentence was changed to 6 months
A trial of the jury was constitutionally required for a sentence for more than six
months. Later the respondent, Hayes who was the judge at the trial of the murder case
eliminated one conviction and reduced the sentences without deciding whether the
sentences run at the same time or at different times. The Kentucky Court of Appeals
confirmed and ruled that considering the changed judgment did not state the sentences to
be following each other, they ought to be at the same time. This resulted in the reduction
of sentences to six months and rendered the convicting and the sentencing without a jury
trial constitutionally permissible.
Though there are many reasons why jury trials are better than bench trials, there
exist some challenges with these trials. One of them is that in emotional cases like of
child rape, the jury is highly likely to convict from feelings instead of convicting beyond
reasonable doubts as noted by Conrad & Clements (2018).
Another important challenge with trials by jury is that the jurors can be biased by
the prejudice which might include racial consideration. For instance, in the infamous case
of 1992 in Rodney King Case in California, white police officers were acquitted by
injuring a black man by a trial jury which consisted of whites with no black jurors
(Monaghan, 1975). The decision was deemed to be unfair and biased.
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Trials by juries in nations with ethnicity tension might be difficult resulting in the
juries to unduly bias and partiality. This is a reason why India and Pakistan abolished
juries immediately after independence (Yerman, 2017). Though, positive belief in trials
by juries in the US contrasts with the common notion in most countries where many
believe non-specialists are dangerous and risky to make fair judgments. Opponents of
these trials also criticize the issue that jurors do not give clear reasons for their verdict.
Those against trials by jury claim that not fair to deprive anyone freedom to life, liberty
or property without giving a reason for doing so.
Conrad & Clements (2018) notes the pitfalls that come with trials by juries.
Therefore, it is crucial to understand the best way to address the juries, choose a panel of
jurors and the best way to avoid myriad of procedural pitfalls which these juries might
create. Conrad & Clements (2018), recommends that in jury trials, it is important to have an
experience licenses attorney.
Despite some of these pitfalls with the jury trials, they are still used today which
suggests they must be an advantage rather than a disadvantage. Their popularity remains
largely undiminished, and the best process available compared to bench trials. From this
paper, juries can ensure public confidence which cannot be affirmed in the use of a single
judge in bench trials in deciding serious criminal cases thus are better.
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Conrad Jr, R. J., & Clements, K. L. (2018). The Vanishing Criminal Jury Trial: From Trial
Judges to Sentencing Judges. Geo. Wash. L. Rev., 86, 99.
Jury vs. Bench Trials: The Advantages and Disadvantages of Both | Brett A. Podolsky. (2017,
August 23). Retrieved from https://brettpodolsky.com/jury/jury-vs-bench-trials-the-
Monaghan, H. P. (1975). The Supreme Court, 1974 Term. Harvard Law Review, 89(1), 1-281.
What Is The Difference Between A Bench Trial And A Jury Trial? (n.d.). Retrieved from
Yerman, B. (2017, December 30). Bench Trial vs. Jury Trial. Retrieved from