Faculty Mentors

Dr. Jerry Herbel


Trial by jury is a constitutionally guaranteed right, and the concept of being judged by one’s peers is a foundational principle in Western society. It is assumed that criminal cases are best and most equitably decided by juries and general consensus is that a judicial case decided by a jury is inherently more acceptable than any alternative. With that said, the foundations for the modern Western judicial practice, like most other essential practices, rests in the Golden Age of Athens and Greece. While the chain of descent is long and varied, in Greece, one can find the first trace of legitimized trial by jury in keeping with the Western tradition. As such, in order to fully grasp the complexities of the system including its shortcomings and its successes, one must first consider its origins. To that end, a contrast of the trial of Socrates and the trial of Orestes can be considered. While the trial of Orestes is entirely fictional and intended foremost to entertain, it is nonetheless an accurate telling of the myth upon which Greek jury trials were founded. Conversely, the trial of Socrates as presented in Plato’s Apology is considered almost entirely factual and is the subject of considerable scholarly research. Yet in both of these cases one can see the full gamut of both esteemed and undesirable attributes inherent to jury trials. They are excellent illustrations of how jury trials originated and also provide considerable commentary on the mechanisms of the court proceeding itself. Beyond their value as examples of a foundational principle’s development, the trials have literary and political weight in and of themselves that are particularly noticeable when they are contrasted against each other.



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