Jury of the Vicinage

The California Constitution does not contain an express provision relating to vicinage, a term meaning "neighborhood" or "vicinity" and used to describe the custom or right of drawing a jury from the locality in which a crime was committed. (Black's Law Dictionary (5th ed. 1979), p. 1405; People v. Guzman (1988) 45 Cal. 3d 915, 935, 248 Cal. Rptr. 467, 755 P.2d 917.) However, in tracing the evolution of the concept, the court in Hernandez v. Municipal Court, supra, 49 Cal. 3d at page 721 explained that the right to trial by jury selected from the vicinage was implied in our state constitution's basic guarantee of the right to trial by jury (now art. I, 16), as well as being guaranteed by the Sixth Amendment to the United States Constitution. It is generally assumed that the original purpose of the vicinage requirement was to ensure that a case was heard by jurors who were familiar with the parties and the locality, and could apply their own personal knowledge in evaluating the testimony or other evidence. Nowadays, of course, the goal is to avoid a jury with such knowledge in favor of a set of 12 tabulae rasae in the jury box, applying only their common sense and intuition. (See Hernandez at p. 720; also People v. Sering, supra, 232 Cal. App. 3d at p. 687.)