Since the verdict came in, I have had several discussions with people on facebook and in person. People’s reactions have ranged. Many are outraged at the jury for letting a woman go who appeared to them to have murdered her daughter. They have cried out that the system is broken. They have brought up the O J Simpson case which ended approximately seventeen years ago.
So, is the system broken? Do two cases in seventeen years indicate that? Was the jury wrong?
These are just some questions to be answered. However, my question is, "If the system is broken, what system should we have?" Should one person decide the fate of a criminal? Should a panel of three? Should the police just be able to convict someone? The mayor of a City? The Governor? Who should it be? What should it be?
My answer? We have the best system. We have twelve people who are selected at random. Attorneys don’t select the jury. They de-select the jury. For example, the Judge brings in 24 random people based on voter registration, and each attorney gets to question these people (Voir Dire). At the end, each attorney gets six strikes, and when they are done, they are left with the twelve jurors. They may be professionals. They may be blue collar workers. They may be students. They may be retirees. They can be anyone who qualifies. And, those twelve people listen to the facts and evidence presented, and they come together in deliberations to decide, UNANIMOUSLY, the fate of another, and if it’s not UNANIMOUS, it’s a hung jury, and the case gets re-tried.
If you were wrongly accused of a crime, would you want one person or a panel deciding your fate? Or, would you want this jury system? I would venture to say that you would rather have the system we have.
The other issue is the media’s involvement in these sensational trials. These things happen every day. There are murders. There are crimes. There are trials. Every day in this country, it happens. But for some reason, only some are promoted in the media, and the public gets involved. Too involved. The public hears bits and pieces, but they aren’t sitting there listening to ALL of the evidence. And yet, the public decides. With no Rules of Evidence or Civil Procedure or burdens of proof, the public decides whether the party is guilty of the crime.
I don’t think this is right. Especially, when nut cases start threatening the lives of jurors. Jurors are doing their civic duty, and they have a right to be respected for their decision regardless of what the public thinks. The system needs to be respected, or the system WILL fail.
This is another reason why more people need to serve. Many complain about jury duty, but it is one of the most fundamental aspects of our country, and instead of complaining, people need to serve and see what it is all about.
Next time you receive a jury notice, think twice about what it means.