Hastings Constitutional Law Quarterly


Kenneth B. Nunn


The increasing media saturation of society has altered the traditional roles and function of the jury in criminal trials. In several recent highly-publicized trials, most notably the Reginald Denny beating case, the jurors have been asked to publicly defend and explain their verdicts. In the past, jury verdicts were accepted as legitimate if the jury was representative of their community. Now, however, it seems that a jury must also be representative to their communities.

This new representative function of the jury has profound implications for the more traditional functions of the jury. For example, what effect does the new representative function have on the jury's traditional fact-finding function? Moreover, how will the prospect of intense media-coverage affect the willingness of competent people to serve on a jury? Finally, what impact would requiring juries to explain their verdict have on the defendant's right to a fair trial?

Professor Kenneth Nunn examines both the traditional notions of jury representativeness and the emergence of the new representative function. Professor Nunn also analyzes the effects of the new representative function on the jury's other duties. Professor Nunn concludes that while the new representative functions may provide valuable educational benefits, it does so at the expense of the jury's fact-finding ability.