Juries and the Transformation of Criminal Justice in France in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries

Juries and the Transformation of Criminal Justice in France in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries

Copyright Date: 2010
Pages: 272
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    Juries and the Transformation of Criminal Justice in France in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries
    Book Description:

    James Donovan takes a comprehensive approach to the history of the jury in modern France by investigating the legal, political, sociocultural, and intellectual aspects of jury trial from the Revolution through the twentieth century. He demonstrates that these juries, through their decisions, helped shape reform of the nation's criminal justice system.From their introduction in 1791 as an expression of the sovereignty of the people through the early 1900s, argues Donovan, juries often acted against the wishes of the political and judicial authorities, despite repeated governmental attempts to manipulate their composition. High acquittal rates for both political and nonpolitical crimes were in part due to juror resistance to the harsh and rigid punishments imposed by the Napoleonic Penal Code, Donovan explains.In response, legislators gradually enacted laws to lower penalties for certain crimes and to give jurors legal means to offer nuanced verdicts and to ameliorate punishments. Faced with persistently high acquittal rates, however, governments eventually took powers away from juries by withdrawing many cases from their purview and ultimately destroying the panels' independence in 1941.

    eISBN: 978-1-4696-0440-4
    Subjects: Law, History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-viii)
    (pp. ix-x)
    (pp. 1-22)

    The institution of trial by jury is intimately connected with democracy. It is based on the assumption that ordinary citizens are capable of administering justice, just as they are capable of choosing their political leaders. Juries, by virtue of their relative independence, have also often been important protectors of the people’s liberties. In France, Britain, and the United States, they have frequently acquitted persons accused of political, press, or speech offenses, to the chagrin of the authorities.¹

    “Jury nullification”—being defined as the exercise of jury discretion in favor of a defendant whom the panel nevertheless believes committed the act...

  5. chapter one THE “PALLADIUM OF LIBERTY” Juries, the Revolution, and Napoleon, 1791–1814
    (pp. 23-48)

    The eras of the French Revolution and Napoleon together composed the foundational period of trial by jury in France. During this time, the basic rules and machinery governing the jury were put into place for the next century and a half. The institution was introduced in a wave of Enlightenment-inspired enthusiasm and optimism about the capacity of citizen-judges (who expressed the sovereignty of the people) to judge on the basis of their common sense and on a sure knowledge of the “facts.” This was the best guarantee of justice. Yet one of the most striking characteristics of the Revolutionary-Napoleonic era...

  6. chapter two THE “JURYS CENSITAIRES,” 1815–1848
    (pp. 49-86)

    The periods of the Bourbon Restoration (1815–30) and the July Monarchy (1830–48) together marked the era of the “Jurys Censitaires,” when the panels were composed almost exclusively ofnotables. In addition, at least two major developments distinguished the era. One was that liberal support for the jury as the “palladium of liberty” now reached its peak. Perhaps in no other era was there such a strong consciousness of the political role of the jury, a consciousness heightened by the sharp political controversies of the era. The other major development was the significant expansion of jury-based mitigation of penalties...

  7. chapter three THE GREAT TURNING POINT The Juries of the Second Republic and Second Empire, 1848–1870
    (pp. 87-110)

    The eras of the Second Republic (1848–52) and Second Empire (1852–70) witnessed the most important turning point in the history of the jury in France from the Revolution to World War II. Whereas the primary response of the authorities to jury sanction nullification during the preceding period was to grant to juries the power to rule on extenuating circumstances, the governments of the 1848–70 era (especially that of the Second Empire) responded primarily through wholesale correctionalization. Rising conviction rates for the offenses the panels continued to try were another distinctive feature of the period, brought about by...

  8. chapter four THE JURIES OF THE REPUBLIC, 1870–1914
    (pp. 111-140)

    Between the proclamation of the Third Republic in 1870 and the outbreak of World War I in 1914, a crucial shift began in regard to liberal support of the jury system. During the earliest years of the Third Republic, liberals sought to defend and strengthen the jury as a counter to a conservative judiciary they distrusted. Once Republicans gained control of the nation’s justice system following their purge of the judiciary in the years around 1880, the long trend toward higher conviction rates was reversed. For a variety of reasons—structural, political, cultural, and above all intellectual—acquittals by Republican-dominated...

  9. chapter five THE CAMPAIGN AGAINST THE JURIES, CIRCA 1890–1914
    (pp. 141-157)

    It was not long before magistrates began to respond to the increased jury nullification of the era after 1880 by renewing their attacks on the jury system. But the new criticisms were different from those of the past, and they entailed a major irony. The rise of “scientific” criminology was the most important contributor to increased jury-based leniency, and in that sense the state and its magistrates found it more difficult to control jurors. But the magistrates and their allies soon discovered that science could be used against the jury. The new criminological ideas seemed to call for a justice...

  10. chapter six THE TRIUMPH OF EXPERTS OVER JURORS Justice in France since World War I
    (pp. 158-176)

    The Positivists of the pre–World War I era laid the intellectual foundations for the destruction of the independent jury system in France. By 1941, the opponents of that system had finally gathered the strength to destroy it. Several powerful political forces combined with intellectual ones to bring about this outcome. For one thing, an intensification in the 1920s and 1930s of the wave of bad press concerning juries that began before World War I suggested an erosion of public support for the panels. Particularly crucial was the liberals’ abandonment of their traditional support of an independent jury system. The...

    (pp. 177-184)

    In France, jurors were supposed to answer a series of questions concerning the “facts” of a case and leave “law” (penalty) to the judges. Yet for a century and a half, juries frequently resorted to nullification. Sometimes this was nullification of the law itself, as in political cases and in certain “routine” felony cases where social norms conflicted with the letter of the law. But far more common was sanction nullification. A broad analysis based on both contemporary sources and the writings of modern historians shows that there were a number of basic transitions in the authorities’ long fight against...

  12. NOTES
    (pp. 185-236)
    (pp. 237-246)
  14. INDEX
    (pp. 247-262)