The jury, a central institution of the trial process, exemplifies in popular perception the distinctiveness of our legal tradition. Nevertheless, juries today try only a small minority of cases. A Trying Question traces the history of the jury in Canada and links its nineteenth-century decline to the rise of the professional class.
R. Blake Brown shows that juries could be controversial, as they could be stacked and were often considered a nuisance by those who had to serve. With the legal profession's expansion, many saw them as amateur, ineffective, and unnecessarily expensive bodies that ought to be supplanted by those trained to sift through and correctly interpret evidence.
A Trying Question's fascinating history outlines the ways in which lay people became less involved in Canada's legal system and illustrates how judges, rather than jurors drawn from the community, would come to find verdicts in most court cases.
About the author
R. Blake Brown is a professor in the Department of History and Atlantic Canada Studies at Saint Mary’s University.