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We the Jury: Deliberation and Justice - Fall 2022

Charles R. Nesson (Harvard Law School)
Rebecca N. Nesson (John A. Paulson School Of Engineering And Applied Sciences)
Freshman Seminar 72T 4 credits (fall term) Enrollment: Limited to 12

A founding principle of the United States is that We the People, not a ruler or his designee, are to decide issues of justice. The mechanism by which We exercise our power of justice is the jury, as guaranteed in the Constitution. Our founders declared the institutional role of the American Jury as the protector of liberty: "Article III, Section 2: The Trial of all Crimes, except in Cases of Impeachment, shall be by Jury"

In this seminar we will investigate the power and limitations of the jury construct (a deliberative body constituted to make a decision) as a mechanism for making just decisions. Our primary methodology will be to constitute ourselves, the members of the class, as a jury each week to engage in deliberation and reflect on the process and the results. We will deliberate both historical cases and current issues relevant to student experience and society. At the beginning of the seminar, we will provide the deliberation prompts, but as the seminar progresses students, working in pairs, will develop a prompt for deliberation by the class. One hour of each class session will be devoted to deliberation.

As a conceptual framework for our deliberations, we begin the seminar with investigation of deliberative practice, considering issues such as bias and unequal testimonial power and methods of counteracting it, the art of listening and persuasion, and the wisdom of crowds. We will then examine how juries work using the conception (and reality) of the American jury to investigate the role of a jury in determining justice, how to interpret standards of proof, and the ability of juries to determine the truth of facts. One hour of each class session will be devoted to class discussion and analysis of the readings and preparatory materials.

In the early weeks of the seminar, we will explore deliberation methodologies and, in particular, the use of pseudonymous, text-based, in-class deliberation as a precursor to identified verbal deliberation. As the seminar progresses to student-led deliberations, students will be encouraged to design a deliberation methodology that they believe will be both inclusive and effective.

More information can be found here.