Oñati Socio-Legal Series, Vol 1, No 9 (2011)

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Jury selection and jury trial in Spain: between theory and practice

Mar Jimeno-Bulnes

Abstract


The Jury Court in Spain is composed of nine citizens and is headed by a magistrate belonging to the Provincial Court, Chamber of Criminal. These citizens participate as lay assessors in a very particular way. The Spanish Jury Law 5/1995 contemplates its intervention in criminal proceedings as a sort of ‘duty-right’; one hand, inasmuch as it is a right, the law guarantees a remuneration; on the other, inasmuch as it is a duty, the Jury Law does not provide any sort of sanction because of inassistance. Also legal status of the Spanish jurors is established by a complicated system of qualification and disqualifications causes. There are four categories for disqualification: incapacities, incompatibilities, prohibitions and excuses, which contemplate various personal and professional circumstances. In contrast, certain omissions in the regulation may be appreciated such as the conscientious objection for example, which becomes the most controversial question with regard to the duty to act as a juror.

The purpose of present paper is to discuss the abover points and examines how jury selection and service actually proceeds in Spanish Jury Courts. An initial reference is made to the composition of the lists of prospective jurors, which includes an explanation of the way in which prospective jurors are designated by random from the electoral census and how the definitive lists are drawn up in each province at two-yearly intervals and delivered to the Provincial Courts. Subsequently, the trial jury selection system is presented along with other measures that relate to jury participation in criminal proceedings, such as the completion of a questionnaire on lawful grounds for disqualification and the distribution of a copy of the ‘jury handbook’ to each selected juror. References are also made to the possibility of challenges for cause and without cause (peremptory challenges) both by the parties to the trial, defence and prosecution, as well as to the requirement to take oath to all jurors. In all this exposition the example of Provincial Court of Burgos shall be used with consideration of practical experiences and even if possible, statistics, to its conducting of jury trials in criminal proceedings.

Having discussed the above points, the paper draws to a close with a number of succinct concluding remarks

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