For the most part America’s judicial system is taken for granted.  Until it is understood how other legal systems function does the uniqueness of the American jury system become apparent.  Trial by jury of a person’s peers is a concept that is a core of American culture.  Although jury duty can be a discomfort to many that are selected to serve, it is deemed by many to be the second most important aspect of civilian service to one’s country only behind military service.  Much of the jury duty practiced in America is based on the English methods that came from the founding of our great nation.

Oher countries around the world are sovereign nations and as such has a right to set their own judicial methods.  While many aspects of their judicial system may be criticized by Americans, it is their right to develop and implement their own processes and procedures.

While living in Saudi Arabia it was very apparent that one needs to understand the laws of the country you are living in.  At the time I lived in Arabia the laws of the land were strictly and quickly adhered to.  If a person was arrested for a crime, say murder, the trial took place rather quickly.  The governor listened to the pleadings of the two legal councils and would decide the fate of the accused.  There is no jury of peers.  If found guilty the accused has one right of appeal and that was to a council in the capital, Riyadh.  If the council upheld the conviction, the guilty person was taken out to the town square after noon prayers on the next Friday (the holy day in Islam) and would be decapitated in public.  If the murder was a large well publicized incident such as the assassination of the king in the early 1970s, the execution would take place in a soccer stadium.  Needless to say, the deterrent to the crime was present and when I lived in Arabia you need not lock your doors at home or your car and crime was quite rare.

England has a very detailed and structured legal system.  In a criminal case a jury is called in a similar manner as American judicial systems.  There is one unique difference.  In America swearing in a juror is performed without a juror’s religious preference but reference to God is made.  In English courts, a juror can swear to uphold the law and render a correct verdict based on his or her religion.

Christian jurors in England swear to God that they will give a fair verdict while Muslims swear a similar oath to Allah.  Sikh jurors, a minority religion in India swear by Waheguru while Hindu jurors, the minority in India, instead of swearing to a religious leader swear on the Gila, the Hindi religious scripture.  Individuals that do not swear such as atheists, agnostics, and Christians who do not swear oaths, such as Quakers, Moravians, and Jehovah’s Witnesses can instead declare and affirm that they will deliver a fair verdict.  Another uniqueness of English courts as compared to American courts is how to handle jurors that become sick, die or have to be excused.  In American courts 12 jurors are seated and two alternates are also seated in case members from the original 12 can not finish the trial.  In English courts the jury is also 12 members but there are no alternates and the trial will continue until a minimum of 8 jurors are left.

It would be only right at this time of the year to look at another trial and observe the jury that was used to find a person guilty of treason.  Actually it was two trials; one religious and one based on the laws of a conquering country.  Two thousand years ago Jesus was arrested by the Jewish leaders and was placed on trial for claiming to be the King of the Jews.  He was taken to the Sanhedrin, an ad hoc religious body that consists of priests and scribes.  Following this trial he is taken to the Roman court where it is requested that Jesus be tried for claiming to be the King of the Jews which would be construed as treason to the Roman government.  Following debate Pilot allowed the people of Jerusalem to choose Jesus’s fate.  The date of the trial was the Jewish Passover and the Roman leader could release one guilty individual so Pilot allowed the throng in Jerusalem to become a type of jury, a sort of mob court.  Instead of releasing Jesus the mob jury released a murder by the name of Barabbas.  The Roman leader accepted the fate based on the jury.  The rest is history.

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