Attorneys for Civic Education (“ACE”) is proud to announce that three Idaho Students and their schools were selected for prizes in ACE’s second Civics Contest. Student essays explored the federal and state constitutional right to a jury trial in a criminal case from the standpoint of both the accused and citizens serving as jurors. The three winning entries were: Ella Barton, North Junior High School; Jesse Evelyn, Evelyn Family Homeschool; and Aunna Reynolds, Idaho Home Learning Academy. ACE would like to extend its gratitude to all the students who submitted entries and the teachers who supported them in that effort.
The ACE Civics Contest is open to Idaho middle school students. The contest was financially sponsored by the Idaho State Bar Fourth District Bar Association, whose financial contribution allowed ACE to award prizes to the top three entries along with an honorarium to the schools to be used for civics-related purposes. The Idaho Supreme Court, Idaho Court of Appeals, and the University of Idaho College of Law also provided extensive support.
One of the members of the judging panel, Donald Burnett, noted: “The students, ranging in age from 11 to 14, showed a welcome appreciation for the importance of juries under the federal and state constitutions, as well as for the right and responsibility of citizens to participate directly in their government through jury service.”
ACE would like to thank the judging panel – Justice Gregory Moeller, Don Burnett, Melissa Davlin, and Frith Stevenson – and the Fourth District Bar Association for their support of the Civics Contest. We appreciate their dedication to advancing civic education in Idaho.
ACE welcomes new members. Visit our website for more information. One of the three winning entries is published below, as well as in print in the February 2023 issue of The Advocate.
George to Joe
By Jesse Evelyn
The right of trial by jury was not always enjoyed by the colonists of America. James Madison wrote the first twelve amendments after the Constitution was in place. Ten were ratified; these became the Bill of Rights. The case of J.P. Zenger in 1735 laid the groundwork for the rights of the individual citizen. Andrew Hamilton was the distinguished lawyer who claimed a fair, public, and speedy trial was a right of everyone, now found in the 6th Amendment.
The right to trial by jury in the U.S. Constitution is found in Article 3 and the 6th Amendment. Everyone has a right to an impartial, local jury in court, a speedy and public hearing, and a lawyer to defend them. The Constitution is intended to benefit the individual, not the government.
The right to trial by jury in the Idaho Constitution is found in Article 1: Section 7. Each has an inviolate right to a jury. In a criminal case, the right to trial by jury can be waived, if the accused requests it and all parties agree.
Both the U.S. and the Idaho Constitutions cite civil trials, but the Idaho Constitution has more emphasis on civil trials. The Idaho Constitution declares that a verdict could be reached with a 5/6 majority, while the U.S. Constitution denied mention of what was needed for a verdict. Six- to twelve-person juries are used in Idaho, although the U.S. Constitution does not specify jury size.
The right to trial by jury is affirmed by the U.S. and Idaho Constitutions, with few differences. Most importantly, we all have equal rights. Each person can have a fair trial, and innocent people can stay out of jail.
The accused individual is helped by a fair jury trial. What “everyone thinks” is not always right. One who is accused is not necessarily guilty; one should not go to jail if innocent. More truth comes out in a trial because a jury listens to both sides before deciding to convict. The trial must be public, so justice is seen by the court. If the individual is innocent, he cannot be tried again for the same crime. If a mistake is made, it should be in favor of life and freedom.
The citizen/juror benefits by juries in many ways. Anyone accused of a crime has a right to a jury, meaning every citizen can also have a fair trial if accused. The jurors are not allowed to hear anything outside of the courtroom that might cloud their judgment. The jury brings the voice of the people to the trial.
The accused person and the citizen/juror both benefit from the constitutional right to a jury. The most important benefit is that everyone has the right to a jury in a criminal case because many innocent people would go to jail under a selfish tyrant. The right protects both the accused and the citizen. The jury makes it fair for everyone, from King George to the average Joe.
Harper, Leslie. What Are Rights and Responsibilities? New York, Rosen Publishing Group, 2013.
Idaho Constitution. The Official Website of the Idaho Legislature. Internet Archive, 1890, . https://legislature.idaho.gov/statutesrules/idconst. Accessed 10 Oct 2022.
Lee, Rex E. A Lawyer Looks at the Constitution. Provo, Brigham Young University Press, 1981.
Marcovitz, Hal. The Constitution. Philadelphia, Mason Crest Publishers, 2003.
Peterson, Christine. The U.S. Constitution. Mankato, Capstone Press, 2009.
Smith, Edward C. The Constitution of the United States. New York, Barnes and Noble, 1968.
Jesse Evelyn, 11, is an enthusiastic 6th-grade homeschooler hailing from southeastern Idaho. Already an award-winning pianist, he is now rapidly learning to play the classical violin. Jesse delights in chemistry, physics, and researching impressive scientific experiments. In his spare time, enjoys reading science fiction, writing his own novels, and rock-hounding.