The jury box–the place where jurors sit when hearing evidence during a trial–is such a mainstay of our legal system that many people are surprised to learn that not all trials involve juries. In fact, the right to a jury trial is not guaranteed in all circumstances. If you may file a lawsuit to ensure accountability following nursing home abuse, it is essential to know when you have a right to a jury and what may cause you to lose this right.
Determining the Fact Finder
In a legal proceeding, questions are often placed in one of two categories: questions of law and questions of fact. Questions of law are determined by a judge. Such questions may include what type of evidence is admissible in a trial and whether a certain objection raised by one of the attorneys should be sustained or overruled.
Questions of fact, however, deal more directly with a defendant’s innocence or guilt, and include questions such as whether a witness is credible. The fact finder–the person or group who decides these questions of fact–may be the judge in some instances or may be a jury in others.
A Constitutional Right to a Jury
According to the U.S. Constitution, most defendants have a right to have a jury in their criminal trial whenever their conviction may lead to an incarceration of more than six months. The Sixth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution further requires that the jury be “impartial.” This means that the jury must weigh the evidence fairly and reach a conclusion based on facts and not based on bias or prejudice.
Like the U.S. Constitution, the Illinois Constitution likewise grants defendants the right to a jury trial in legal proceedings.
Trials Without a Jury
There are a few, rare civil cases where a jury right may not apply, but they are unique circumstances and not those related to typical nursing home neglect issues. Alternatively, in many cases a party has the right to decide to forgo a jury and have a judge decide instead. Decisions about juries involve complex trial strategy. If you have the aid of an experienced trial attorney, he or she can explain the pros and cons of any trial decision.
In many ways, these matters are an “artform” that takes years (or decades) to hone. The decision often depends on the specific issues upon which the case will fall. When it comes to understanding the effect that various forms of mistreatment may have on an ailing senior, it is often important to have the decision reached by community members. That is because they often have elders in their own family and are able to step into your shoes to understand why you are pursuing justice following mistreatment.
Seek Out Experienced Nursing Home Lawyers
If a loved one was harmed by inadequate nursing home care, it is critical to contact a skilled Chicago abuse lawyer. Understanding your rights may be the difference between full accountability or the company getting away with poor care. For help in Chicago and throughout Illinois, please reach out to our legal professionals today to see how we can help.
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