Jury Service

President Judge's Message to Jurors

"A Salute to Government by the People Through Jury Service."

President Judge of the Superior Court of Delaware

E Pluribus Unum has been stamped on every United States coin for over 100 years. It means out of many, one. While the phrase has been used to describe our one nation forged out of many colonies, the words also easily apply to describe the citizen jury in American law and justice. After all, our juries are selected from our own diverse communities to hear and deliberate upon the evidence in a criminal or civil trial. With one voice the jury ultimately announces its judgment of the facts through its unanimous verdict. We should celebrate this justice by the people and our opportunities to be a part of it.

Daniel Webster once said that "Justice is the great interest of mankind on this earth." History shows that jury service has long been critical to achieving true justice. Chief Justice John Fortescue of the King's Bench of England observed in 1468 that "trial by jury is the most rational and effective method for discovering the truth."

Jury trial was guaranteed in England by the Magna Carta which provided that no one shall be imprisoned "unless by the lawful judgment of his peers." The signers of the Declaration of Independence in 1776, including Delawareans Caesar Rodney, George Reed and Thomas McKean, declared our independence from England in part because King George was "depriving us in many cases, of the benefits of Trial by Jury." Within weeks of the signing of the Declaration of Independence, our Delaware representatives of New Castle, Kent and Sussex Counties wrote in the Delaware Declaration of Rights "[t]hat trial by jury of facts where they arise is one of the greatest securities of the lives, liberties and estates of the people."

Every Delaware Constitution since has guaranteed this precious right to trial by jury as has the Bill of Rights to the United States Constitution. With our core beliefs on the importance of the jury enshrined within our supreme law of the land, the praise our founding fathers had for trial by jury comes as no surprise. Thomas Jefferson said "I consider trial by jury as the only anchor ever yet imagined by man, by which a government can be held to the principles of its constitution." James Madison believed that trial by jury is "as essential to secure the liberty of the people as any one of the pre-existent rights of nature."

Delaware Judges continue to advise our juries today in every criminal or civil case of their essential role. We charge that they, not the Judges, are the sole and exclusive judges of the facts of the case, of the credibility of the witnesses, and the weight and value of their testimony. While the Judge determines the law to be applied, the jury's role is that of an equal partner in the administration of justice.

With every important right comes important responsibility. Our own individual rights to trial by jury are preserved by our individual participation as fair and impartial jurors. This year in Delaware more than 36,437 of us will serve as jurors to provide justice by the people. Some of the cases tried may prove more challenging than others, but all will be important. This community participation in the administration of justice serves well not only to discover the truth but to enhance public confidence in the justice system.

Each of us should do all we can to promote this vital service of citizenship which anchors our government to the Constitution and secures our liberties. Employers who promote jury service by not interrupting their employees' pay for temporary absences deserve special praise from the community. To the Delawareans who are serving now as jurors, have served in the past, or will serve as jurors in the future, we all owe you a sincere "thank you" for your time and your true verdicts in accordance with the evidence. Your dedication helps ensure, as Abraham Lincoln predicted, "that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth."