Many questions on here stress that a jury is suppose to rule based off of the rules as explained to them by the judge and facts presented during the case, not on their own knowledge or expertise. It's also been well explained that Lawyers are often strike from jury duty to avoid their impacting the result of the cased based off their understanding of the law: Why are lawyers typically excluded from juries?

However, if making decisions solely based off of what is presented at the trial is so important that judges have dismissed people with specialized knowledge and researching even basic legal information while a juror is cause to be dismissed it seems odd to me that a lawyer is allowed to sway the jury using his legal knowledge, as is was suggested would happen if a lawyer was allowed to be a juror.

Is a lawyer allowed to explain legal laws if he is part of a jury to the rest of his jurors, or is this grounds for the lawyer to be removed if discovered?

For that matter what if a Juror had discovered he had some specialized knowledge relevant to a case during the case, such as being familiar enough with a gun used in a shooting to know it's unlikely to have fired the way claimed or having consoled enough rape victims to know their psychology and that certain activities after a rape that may seem illogical or to prove a victim wasn't raped are actually somewhat common and are poor proof that a rape didn't occurred etc. Is the Juror allowed to share his own specialized knowledge with the Jury, or even use it to make a decision himself?

  • Interesting point, lawyers are trained to distinguish between questions of law vs questions of fact, have special duties to the court and community; in fact, query if in this day in age, only lawyers (from different walks of life ie some corporate lawyers, some suburban lawyers, some academics, some government layers etc) should serve as jurors. It seems that way they can actually follow the judge’s instructions, and any misconduct would result in a harsher penalty including losing or affecting their professional qualifications!
    – user29276
    Jan 7, 2020 at 17:15
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    I had been led to believe that attorneys could not be jurors, given that as attorneys their expertise would sway the jury disproportionately. I could be wrong.
    – EvilSnack
    May 24, 2020 at 4:59
  • @EvilSnack I'm not an expert in the field, but my understanding, from the linked question, is that technically an attorney is allowed to be a juror, it's just that either the prosecution or the defense don't want an attorney as a juror. Their always exclude the attorney if they can, but technically no law forbids an attorney if no one excludes him.
    – dsollen
    May 24, 2020 at 16:42

1 Answer 1


"Allowed" is not an applicable concept, since the few laws regulating juror conduct pertain to corrupt behavior (such as bribery). Instead, there are standards for juror conduct that the legal profession wishes to be adhered to, and the only way that impression is conveyed to jurors is through the judge's instructions (or lack therein). It is held in Sparf and Hansen v. United States 156 U.S. 51 that

In the courts of the United States, it is the duty of the jury, in criminal cases, to receive the law from the court, and to apply it as given by the court, subject to the condition that, by a general verdict, a jury of necessity determines both law and fact as compounded in the issue submitted to them in the particular case. In criminal cases, it is competent for the court to instruct the jury as to the legal presumptions arising from a given state of facts, but it may not, by a peremptory instruction, require the jury to find the accused guilty of the offense charged, nor of any offense less than that charged.

One of the "technical" rights of a jury is the right to judge the law itself (jury nullification). This arises in part from the Zenger trial and similar colonial events, and (in terms of legal precedent) from a famous instruction by Jay in Georgia v. Brailsford, 3 U.S. 1:

It may not be amiss, here, Gentlemen, to remind you of the good old rule, that on questions of fact, it is the province of the jury, on questions of law, it is the province of the court to decide. But it must be observed that by the same law, which recognizes this reasonable distribution of jurisdiction, you have nevertheless a right to take upon yourselves to judge of both, and to determine the law as well as the fact in controversy. On this, and on every other occasion, however, we have no doubt, you will pay that respect, which is due to the opinion of the court: For, as on the one hand, it is presumed, that juries are the best judges of facts; it is, on the other hand, presumable, that the court are the best judges of the law. But still both objects are lawfully, within your power of decision.

Sparf v. US however finds that a judge is under no obligation to inform jurors of that right, and jury instructions say things like "you must apply the law as I give it to you, even if you disagree with the law". For examples, instruction 101 in the California criminal instructions manual says that trials are

conducted in open court with the parties presenting evidence and the judge deciding the law that applies to the case. It is unfair to the parties if you receive additional information from any other source because that information may be unreliable or irrelevant and the parties will not have had the opportunity to examine and respond to it. Your verdict must be based only on the evidence presented during trial in this court and the law as I provide it to you.

This is not an enforceable law, for instance if a juror (esp. an attorney) argues one way based on his version of the law, that is not a punishable offense, nor is it a punishable offense if a juror (who is an engineer) argues that some expert testimony on an engineering matter is factually wrong. Jurors are not supposed to do either thing, but there are no legal consequences if they do.

Since the legal ideal is that a jury will evaluate the (allowed) testimony in court and applies the law as given by the judge, and attorneys have an ethical obligation to uphold the law, they thus have an ethical obligation to not restate the law and especially to not do so under the guise of being an attorney (who has expert knowledge of the law). This is basically an unenforceable principle. There was an instruction in California saying that:

should . . . any juror refuse[] to deliberate or express[] an intention to disregard the law or to decide the case based on penalty or punishment, or any other improper basis, it is the obligation of the other jurors to immediately advise the Court of the situation

but People v. Engelman 28 cal 4th 436 nixed that instruction. That case says that

jurors have no right to refuse to deliberate or to disregard the law in reaching their decision


Directing the jury immediately before deliberations begin that jurors are expected to police the reasoning and arguments of their fellow jurors during deliberations, and immediately advise the court if it appears that a fellow juror is deciding the case upon an "improper basis," may curtail or distort deliberations.

This does not mean that in the rare instance that a lawyer is on a jury, he must suppress his conclusions, even when they are professionally informed. This article recounts a lawyer's experience on a jury and identifies a point of law (and how the issue was handled). In that case, the question is what to make of a statement that something is "not at issue". The non-;awyers interpreted that to mean "we aren’t supposed to award her anything for back and neck injuries". The lawyer said:

I was pretty sure this was wrong. While it was true that the lawyers had said the back and neck injuries were “not at issue,” that was a phrase that I could recall uttering in court, too. When I said it, I meant that both sides agreed on a certain fact or point of law. I did not mean that the fact or point of law was not material to the case.

No other juror interpreted the lawyers’ statements my way, and when we checked, we found that the jury instructions were silent on the issue. So, we wrote the judge a question. Turns out, “the lawyer” was right. The judge instructed us to consider any injury from the collision, whether it was an injury to the plaintiff’s back, to her neck, to her shoulder, or elsewhere. The lesson for attorneys: explain to the jury exactly what you mean. Don’t assume they understand your shorthand terms, like “not at issue.”

In other words, the judge still determines what the law is, though in this case it looks like it took the expert knowledge of an attorney to figure out that the jury needed to ask the judge what "not at issue" means.

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    Jurors are not supposed to do either thing, but there are no legal consequences if they do. So, the juror himself cannot be punished. But might this be grounds for removing the juror (which is not a punishment), or for a mistrial? Jun 13, 2017 at 16:25
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    One of the duties of a judge is to accurately and truthfully describe the laws applicable to a particular case. That does not imply that everything a judge says about the law is, in fact, true of the law that should be applied. I find it irksome and reprehensible that juror requests to see the actual text of statutes are often denied, even though it would be possible that a jury might determine that the facts of a case would meet the requirements for guilt in the simplified version of the law stated by the judge, but not the requirements in the actual statute.
    – supercat
    Sep 21, 2019 at 18:57
  • Further, while judges like to claim that jurors have no right to know about sentencing since it should have no affect on whether a person is guilty, a jury considering a crime meriting five years in prison should demand much stronger proof of criminal intent than one considering an offence that merits a $50 fine.
    – supercat
    Sep 21, 2019 at 19:01
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    @supercat the problem with reading statutes, however, is that doing so ignores any jursiprudence that has a bearing on the meaning of the statute. In the US, statutes remain on the books after being declared unconstitutional, for example, unless they are explicitly repealed. That's pretty clear, but subtler issues may arise. Similarly, some statutory text depends on other sections that define certain terms, sometimes in direct conflict with their usual meaning.
    – phoog
    Jan 7, 2020 at 17:43
  • In certain circumstances (Capital Punishment cases spring to mind) the jury having knowledge that the Prosecution is seeking the death Penalty is not only necessary, but in some states, requires them to independently determin the guilt in a crime and if so, whether it merits a recomendation of the death penalty. In Capital Offense cases, any potential jurist who is pro-abolition is gonna get dismissed because of concern they won't even convict.
    – hszmv
    Jan 7, 2020 at 17:43

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