Trial by jury in the United States
In the United States, every person accused of a crime punishable by incarceration for more than six months has a constitutional right to a trial by jury, which arises in federal court from Article Three of the United States Constitution, which states in part, "The Trial of all Crimes...shall be by Jury; and such Trial shall be held in the State where the said Crimes shall have been committed." The right was expanded with the Sixth Amendment to the United States Constitution, which states in part, "In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the state and district wherein the crime shall have been committed." Both provisions were made applicable to the states through the Fourteenth Amendment. Most states' constitutions also grant the right of trial by jury in lesser criminal matters, though most have abrogated that right in offenses punishable by fine only. The Supreme Court has ruled that if imprisonment is for six months or less, trial by jury is not required, meaning a state may choose whether or not to permit trial by jury in such cases. Under the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure, if the defendant is entitled to a jury trial, he may waive his right to have a jury, but both the government (prosecution) and court must consent to the waiver. Several states require jury trials for all crimes, "petty" or not. In the cases Apprendi v. New Jersey, 530 U.S. 466 (2000), and Blakely v. Washington, 542 U.S. 296 (2004), the Supreme Court of the United States held that a criminal defendant has a right to a jury trial not only on the question of guilt or innocence, but any fact used to increase the defendant's sentence beyond the maximum otherwise allowed by statutes or sentencing guidelines. This invalidated the procedure in many states and the federal courts that allowed sentencing enhancement based on "a preponderance of evidence", where enhancement could be based on the judge's findings alone. Depending upon the state, a jury must be unanimous for either a guilty or not guilty decision. A hung jury results in the defendants release, however charges against the defendant are not dropped and can be reinstated if the state so chooses. Jurors in some states are selected through voter registration and drivers' license lists. A form is sent to prospective jurors to pre-qualify them by asking the recipient to answer questions about citizenship, disabilities, ability to understand the English language, and whether they have any conditions that would excuse them from being a juror. If they are deemed qualified, a summons is issued. English common law and the United States Constitution recognize the right to a jury trial to be a fundamental civil liberty or civil right that allows the accused to choose whether to be judged by judges or a jury. In America, it is understood that juries usually weigh the evidence and testimony to determine questions of fact, while judges usually rule on questions of law, although the dissenting justices in the Supreme Court case Sparf et al. v. U.S. 156 U.S. 51 (1895), generally considered the pivotal case concerning the rights and powers of the jury, declared: "It is our deep and settled conviction, confirmed by a re-examination of the authorities that the jury, upon the general issue of guilty or not guilty in a criminal case, have the right, as well as the power, to decide, according to their own judgment and consciences, all questions, whether of law or of fact, involved in that issue." Jury determination of questions of law, sometimes called jury nullification, cannot be overturned by a judge if doing so would violate legal protections against double jeopardy. Although a judge can throw out a guilty verdict if it was not supported by the evidence, a jurist has no authority to override a verdict that favors a defendant. It was established in Bushel's Case that a judge cannot order the jury to convict, no matter how strong the evidence is. In civil cases a special verdict can be given, but in criminal cases a general verdict is rendered, because requiring a special verdict could apply pressure to the jury, and because of the jury's historic function of tempering rules of law by common sense brought to bear upon the facts of a specific case. For this reason, Justice Black and Justice Douglas indicated their disapproval of special interrogatories even in civil cases.