Thursday, November 17, 2011

Jury Duty

I just finished an experience I've always managed to avoid one way or another all these years. I sat on a jury in a civil trial. I never want to do it again. I don't think I'll have to worry about a criminal trial, since I'm absolutely opposed to prison and would not send any non-violent offender there regardless of the evidence or the law. I doubt that would pass muster in the pre-selection process.

The OJ Simpson trial (and more recently, even the Casey Anthony trial to some degree) have thoroughly undermined my confidence in the jury system. The jury system no longer works (if it ever did) because not all jurors are capable of following simple cause and effect trails, let alone difficult ones; jurors are purposely kept ignorant and information limited by the system so decisions have to be made on the basis of less than the totality of facts or science; a host of legal technicalities and terms make the process of weighing and determining facts very uncertain; etc., etc., etc.

My own experience has only served to validate my concerns. Did the jury I served on do justice? Maybe, but I have my doubts. We took the best guess we could given what we were presented. We were offered precious little, and very purposely I might add. We were deadlocked until a couple of people were willing to acknowledge that the situation meant that there just wasn't enough evidence to make the plaintiff's case. Such is justice in the US, heaven help us.

I think lawyers ought to make up the bulk of juries. They understand the proceedings, the terms, and the nuances of legal determinations. They are the ones making money off the system (would it be too much to ask them to serve some time every year rendering verdicts?). As long as they do not have a horse in the race, they would make the best jurors. They can be mixed with people who, instead of not knowing anything about the fields in question, are familiar with them. We would get more just verdicts, and probably quicker ones I would think.


  1. Hello SLW

    Purposely being kept ignorant is scary...We had a big murder trial recently. The defendant pled guilty to manslaughter but denied murder. The Crown Prosecution Service insisted on a trial for murder. The defendant implied that he'd had a sudden urge, etc...

    In the end the jury found him guilty of murder 10-2. After that, it was revealed that the police had found dodgy stuff on his computer after he was arrested, which showed that he had been mulling over that sort of murder for a long time. The jury were not allowed to see it, in case it swayed their decision. I wonder how relieved the 10 jurors felt that they had found him guilty. I do know why this info was concealed -- I think. It was to prevent the defendant going for an appeal and suggesting that with prior knowledge of the porn on his PC, no one would give him a fair hearing.

    PS Yes, it's the CROWN Prosecution Service, and it's the Crown vs So-and-so. Yeah, you can all laugh at this Ruritanian stuff, but you loved The Wedding as much as we did ... Nighty night.

  2. Anthea,
    The purposefulness in selecting and maintaining ignorance is incredibly scary. The attempt, it seems to me, is to as near as possible get blank slates for jurors, and then to insulate them from any information on the matter at hand except for what is presented at court. Supposedly, the effort is to keep decisions from being prejudiced. What a trade-off--ignorance for prejudice.


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