Does anyone know why they chose 12 jurors for the panel, instead of an odd number or something like that?
custom, since time immemorial; plus, it doesn’t matter whether you have an even or an odd number, since the jury’s verdict has to be unanimous (at common law, anyway; some jurisdictions by statute allow majority judgments in some civil matters.)
Like jti said, it’s mostly custom. It’s just a convenient number to deal with. In almost all criminal cases, the vedict must be unanimous. In some civil cases, an 8 to 4 (or some such) majority may be sufficient.
I served on a jury of six this year.
Twelve is the traditional number of jurors from English common law, which the U.S. (and other countries that were once British colonies) adopted. Where it came from in English common law, I do not know.
In the last several decades there has been a movement in the U.S. legal system toward reducing the number of jurors, as well as permitting non-unanimous verdicts in some cases.
As I remember, in the federal court system, civil jury trials are usually tried before panels of six, while criminal trials still require twelve jurors. In New York state courts, misdemeanors are tried before six, while felonies require a panel of twelve.
Further, in some jurisdictions alternate jurors are not dealt with in the traditional way (jurors selected as alternates, and only put on panels if an original juror is removed). In some cases a panel of more than the minimum is called and all jurors deliberate. For instance, if the case is usual before a panel of six, eight jurors may be called, with all deliberating. If one or two of the panel is removed, then the remaining six or seven would deliberate.
In countries whose legal systems did not derive from the English common law, juries are unusual (though I believe that they were introduced in Japan during the US occupation after WW II).
I imagine it’s 12, because 12 is the ‘perfect’ number, with all sorts of religious and mathematical connotations.
In Scotland a criminal jury has 15 people, although the number can reduce if jurors drop out through illness or other problems (a civil jury has 12 people). A criminal verdict can be by majority, and we have 3 verdicts! Guilty, not guilty, and not proven which has the same effect as not guilty.
I don’t know how it works in civil cases
And then there’s the grand jury, which if I remember correctly, at common law had 25 members. We don’t have them anymore in Canada, so all I know about them comes from *Law & Order, All the President’s Men,*and The Final Days.
Can any of the US lawyers tell us: Do grand jury indictments, subpoenas, and so on have to be unanimous, or can there be majority decisions?
Also, are there any common law jurisdictions, other than the US, that still have the grand jury?