“If you are sure you convict him; if you are not you acquit him. That is all there is to it.”

The English jury is a remarkable political institution. It selects twelve ordinary people chosen at random from the widest population; it convenes them for a particular trial; it entrusts them with the ultimate power of decision; it permits them to carry on deliberations in secret and to report their final judgment without giving reasons for it; and after their brief and unpaid service to the state has been completed, it orders them to disband and return to private life.

Until I was called up for jury service recently, this was an abstract thought experiment. After having served and decided on three criminal trials, I consider it a privilege to have been allowed to take part in an all-too-rare exercise in genuine democracy and believe that a jury trial remains a fundamental barrier against tyranny and an over-mighty state.

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