A jury of your peers?


We often hear that the defendant is guaranteed a jury of his peers. The Magna Carta guaranteed a jury of one's peers. In Britain, a peer is a member of the nobility.

We tend to think of our peers as those of similar social standing. A surgeon being sued for malpractice might then be entitled to a jury of physicians. The drunk-driving defendant might argue that his beer drinking companions are his peers.

In fact, there is no right to a jury of one’s peers. Our state and federal constitution provide instead, for trial by an impartial jury. Jurors must be chosen from a fair cross-section of citizens of the state and district. That cross-section is drawn from a random list of Montana licensed drivers, and holders of Montana ID cards, aged eighteen or over.




Amendment VI   

In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defence.




Section 24

Rights of the accused. In all criminal prosecutions the accused shall have the right to appear and defend in person and by counsel; to demand the nature and cause of the accusation; to meet the witnesses against him face to face; to have process to compel the attendance of witnesses in his behalf, and a speedy public trial by an impartial jury of the county or district in which the offense is alleged to have been committed, subject to the right of the state to have a change of venue for any of the causes for which the defendant may obtain the same.