by R. Blake Brown, Professor of History, St Mary’s University. Published with the University of Toronto Press, 2009.
The jury has long been a central institution of both the trial process in particular and of the ideology of the common law in general, a body exemplifying the distinctiveness of our legal tradition. In this first book-length study devoted to the history of the jury in Canada, Brown shows that it was also often controversial, and much of what he recounts will perhaps surprise the modern reader. The jury could be used for political ends when the authorities sought to ‘pack’ juries to achieve the verdicts they wanted in high-profile cases. At other times it was seen simply as a nuisance for those required to serve, an unwanted distraction from everyday economic activities. With the growth of professionalism it also came to be seen as an ineffective and amateurish body that ought to be supplanted by men trained to sift through the evidence and come to the right conclusions. This book is a fascinating account of the history of a key legal institution.