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.