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After their random selection from electoral rolls, criminal court trial jurors must quickly assimilate to the world of the court and learn a role for which they have little preparation. This integration is not self-evident as lay jurors, without any legal training for the most part, question they own legitimacy, and for the first time come into contact with lawmen, criminal charges and social realities of unsettling cruelty -while they ought to keep a neutral viewpoint on the judiciary. The encounter with criminal court professionals, judges in particular, is marked by a number of tests and trials, and very ambivalent feelings are the dominant response to the arrival, qualification and disqualification of jurors, as well as to what they understand as a departure between the legitimacy of magistrates, and judicial practices seen as “manipulative”. While the act of judging doesn't require citizens to know the law, but to be attentive and show “reason” in order to form their “intimate conviction”, the emotions jurors feel during the reading of the charges are perceived as unavoidable, and a threat to a serene decision making process. The relation of power between professional judges and lay jurors are best understood when considering the institutional constraints the former answer to, and how much—or how little—effect the latter feel they have on justice while deliberating. The socially differentiated modes of assuming one's role as a juror do not question the dominant position of judges, nor do the varying conducts of judges with regard to the leading of trials and the place given to jurors. However, they all give us a glimpse of the differentiated effects of the court experience on jurors. That jurors contest the power of judges, while showing an attachment to a justice system with professional magistrates, demonstrate that beyond the challenges faced, integration into the Assize court is a promise for a democracy giving individuals a form of recognition.


  • Assize court
  • deliberating
  • democracy
  • lay jurors
  • legitimacy
  • trials
Aziz Jellab
Armelle Giglio-Jacquemot
This is the latest publication of the author on cairn.
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