Jury System

December 14, 1955

Report Outline
Federal Government and the Jury System
Basic Elements of American Jury System
Criticism and Defense of Jury Trials
Proposals to Improve the Jury System

Federal Government and the Jury System

Plan to bar Eavesdropping on Jury Deliberations

Administration support of proposed legislation to outlaw eavesdropping on the deliberations of trial juries has again directed public attention to working of the jury system—one of the most frequently criticized but most venerated of all democratic institutions. Endorsement by President Eisenhower of a Justice Department plan to bar listening in on discussions in the jury room stemmed from, and capped the reaction to, disclosures that electronic devices had been used to make secret recordings of jury sessions in federal cases. The jury-tapping was done by University of Chicago researchers as a part of a study of the operation of the jury system under modern conditions.

After conferring with the President at Denver, Oct. 21, Attorney General Brownell explained that the proposed law would make it a crime to “interfere in any way” with jury deliberations. He declared that any attempt to listen in on jury proceedings was “completely contrary to our system of trial by jury.”

We in the Department of Justice [Brownell had said on Oct. 5] are unequivocally opposed to any recording or eavesdropping on the deliberations of a jury under any conditions regardless of the purpose. Such practices, however well intentioned, obviously and inevitably stifle the discussion and free exchange of ideas between jurors. They tend to destroy the very basis for common judgment among the jurors, upon which the institution of trial by jury is based…

ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
Jury System
Nov. 10, 1995  The Jury System
Nov. 07, 1973  Grand Juries
Sep. 13, 1972  American Jury System: Reexamination and Change
Feb. 09, 1966  Fair Trial by Jury
Dec. 14, 1955  Jury System
Oct. 23, 1929  Trial by Jury: Defects and Proposed Remedies