The choice of a jury or bench trial is an integral part of the U.S. justice system. While Bowling Green State University reported in 2022 that there are no major differences in the rates of convictions for jury and bench trials, it is still a decision that deserves careful consideration.
Many people decide to choose a jury, but each person should look at the advantages and disadvantages of this option to ensure it is the right decision in their cases.
Diversity of perspective
One significant advantage of a jury trial is the diversity of perspectives it brings. In a bench trial, the only person hearing the case is the judge. That is incredibly limiting considering a jury has multiple people who have various backgrounds and experiences. This can add viewpoints that could help shape the final decision.
While having multiple individuals hear a case can be nice to get different points of view, it also could be much more unpredictable. Anytime there is a group of people it becomes hard to predict what they may do. Plus, they do not have a history of making such decisions to serve as a guide for how they may decide the case.
A judge is much more predictable because he or she relies on personal knowledge and experience without influence from others. In addition, it is easier to get an idea of how he or she may rule by looking at past decisions.
Furthermore, a jury is just a group of citizens from the community who have limited legal knowledge on which to base their decision. The judge has legal training and knows the law intimately. The knowledge base of each could lead to vastly different decisions in the same case.
The chances of jurors being able to relate to the parties in a case are higher than with a judge. Judges have training in remaining impartial and not letting emotion impact their decisions. The emotions within a jury could sway them and lead to a much different outcome than what could come from a stoic judge, but this can go both ways. It depends greatly on the details of the case as to whether emotional decisions are good or bad.
When facing the decision of choosing a bench or jury trial, each person must choose for themselves. Weighing the aspects of each option can greatly assist with making an informed decision without regret.