The entire jury in the trial of Bruce Lehrmann has been discharged after a juror brought a research paper on sexual assaults into the jury room.
In the ACT, jurors are only used in cases where a person is accused of a serious crime. These cases often generate great public interest. The role of the jury is to decide whether the person is guilty or not guilty. In criminal matters, such as sexual assault, in order to find an accused person guilty, the jury needs to be satisfied beyond reasonable doubt that the alleged offence occurred. This is referred to as the standard of proof and is discussed in a previous social media post.
People often think that it is judges who decide cases but that isn’t the case in all criminal matters. In certain circumstances, an accused can apply to have their matter decided by Judge alone but in most cases, a jury will be empaneled. Each jury trial will be presided over by a judge. The role of the judge is to direct the jury about the law and ensure that the rules of procedure and evidence are followed. However, the jurors are the sole judges of fact. It is not up the judge what evidence the jury decides to accept or reject or what arguments they may find persuasive.
An accused person has the right to a fair trial and an unbiased jury. For this reason, an accused person is able to disqualify potential jurors who they know or believe may not be impartial. This is referred to as a peremptory challenge. Each juror who is finally selected will take an oath or affirmation (make a promise) to decide the case based solely on evidence before the courtroom. They are each required to remain impartial and consider all evidence objectively
It is for this reason that Chief Justice Lucy McCallum told the Lehrmann jury: “It has come to my attention that one of you, contrary to directions, has undertaken research in relation to issues in the case and that material has entered the jury room which ought not to have” and went on to say “I have heard an explanation and it may be that no harm has been done, but that is not a risk that I can take.”