Cross-Examination By Jury?

It seems to me that in our legal tradition, juries (except grand juries?) are extremely passive. You have two sides, each presenting their take on a set of events, in a controlled setting. The jury seems like this passive audience, that only gets what they are spoon-fed. Now, I have no actual experience with courtrooms, so maybe I’m totally wrong in this.

It’s not very hard for me to imagine, were I on a jury, that at some point I’d be dying to ask a witness my own questions. I go to technical talks on a fairly regular basis, and not being able to ask the presenter questions would very seriously impede my ability to understand the material.

It seems like a common principle to me. If I really want to understand a situation, to get clarity on an issue, I need to be able to probe it a bit. I need to be able to ask for clarifications, rephrase questions and so on.

My understanding of courtroom procedure is basically derived from movies and TV, but it seems to me that the jury might as well be watching the proceedings on TV.

So is there no tradition of a jury actually participating in a trial? It seems very clear to me that at least being able to question an expert or scientific witness would help my understanding as a juror. I can see potential problems, but no iron-clad reason why that couldn’t be implemented in some constrained form, or extended to other types of witnesses. Is there some basic principle of law with a latin name that explains why this is not done?

I can see potential problems

I can think of 1000 problems right off the bat but I am sure someone will come along next and list those out. Lets just say its a very very very very very bad idea.

Lets not forget a Jury let O.J. off.

It’s not the jurors’ responsibility to probe for information. All they’re there for is to make a decision based on the evidence (or lack thereof) and information both sides present. That’s it.

But in that movie with the guys and the black guy the one guy thinks up something that the lawyers didn’t mention like with the woman and her glasses or a train.

Ok. I’m not picturing a situation where the jury member is Sherlock Holmes and is going to find the real murderer by asking a few piercing questions.

What I’m thinking of is more like a communications channel. It helps if the reciever can send information back, even if it’s just “we didn’t understand that last bit, could you clarify?”

I understand that unconstrained questioning wouldn’t work out too well. Yet I don’t see how having some kind of feedback is harmfull.