Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Get Rid of Jury Duty

Back on Sunday we published an article about the "second guessing" that's about to go on concerning police shootings. We also included this throw away line:
  • Civilians, especially civilians who have anything to do with the reverends, have no business anywhere near a round table discussion. In our opinion, most civilians have no business even being near a jury box, but that's a different argument.
That comment provoked a number of responses:
  • Now, you don't really mean that you, a sworn peace officer, don't believe in the jury system, do you? Do you?

  • No jury of your peers? WTF. Sounds like SCC wants to be the judge and jury now?

  • SCC, I know you are a right wing nut. But do you REALLY BELIEVE that most citizens "have no business in a jury box". What, only people like you should serve on a jury? What makes you qualified to decide who should sit on a jury or not?
To address these comments in order:
  • We think the jury system is broken. Badly broken. And to fix such a system, radical measures ought to be considered and debated.
  • If you read the 6th and 7th Amendments to the US Constitution, you'll find guarantees to a "speedy" trial, a "public" trial, a trial by an "impartial" jury, and the right to trial by jury. You will find NO reference whatsoever to a "jury of your peers." We'd love to be judge and jury, but that doesn't seem legal. Yet.
  • After seeing hundreds or more out of control jury awards in civil trials for the most insanely stupid reasons or murderers go free because certain ethnic groups wanted to "send a message" to the world, do you really think most citizens have any business near a court room? The fact that we've participated in the legal system in hundreds of instances as plaintiff, defendant, witness and observer makes us uniquely qualified to have an opinion as to who should sit on juries. Oh, and the fact that we're American citizens with a right to an opinion, too.
Its been said here and other places, "Better to be judged by 12 than carried by 6." We've also seen it here that people ought to be worried when they place their fates in the 12 people too stupid to get out of jury duty. Let's look at the whole thing though.

Jury duty is onerous at times. Locked in a room with strangers, listening to heated arguments on points of law and procedure that don't interest most people, bombarded with minutiae over and over. It's boring. And then you have the lawyers and their consultants who have potential jurors fill out surveys about all sorts of trivia that will enable them to bump off jurors they don't like. Who gets bumped more often than not? People with the ability to reason, follow logic, people with experience in a given field (ever see a cop on a criminal jury? a doctor on a medical malpractice suit? almost never).

The people who end up on juries are more often than not big television watchers who expect some big "CSI" moment where someone spontaneously confesses on the stand or some fingerprint miraculously appears to exonerate a suddenly innocent accused. You get people who will award a dope dealer millions based on zero DNA evidence and zero attributable damage to a claim of sodomy with a screwdriver. Or who will ignore expert testimony that in less than 2% of all firearms is there a recoverable fingerprint and give millions to a dead felon's family claiming a lack of prints means police planted a weapon.

Professional jurors, made up of learned citizens with a basic understanding of law, science and statistical analysis would make trial lawyers (pardon our language) shit bricks. Even if it never came to be, it would provoke such a wave of reform in the system that we'd get closer to what the Founding Fathers envisioned as trial by jury. At the very least, it deserves debate.

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31 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

God you are so correct I can cry. You see it and articulated it, I see it and have reflected upon it many times. Who else is so enlightened?

12/04/2007 12:18:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

P.S. "jury of your peers" stems from English common law. It is more of a tradition and isn’t written in constitution, but why let the constitution get in the way? After, it is written in the constitution that the U.S. Governments mandate is to protect us against foreign invaders I.E. boarder patrol, military, coast guard. They are failing miserably

12/04/2007 12:23:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Um, anyone worried about the Jury system should seriously give pause and ponder me this: Why do Bench Trials exist? Buller? Buller?

12/04/2007 01:30:00 AM  
Blogger Murphy40Pct said...

The people questioning you are those who have never had anything important in their lives decided by a jury. A reasonable person can not see the jury system for what it is and not fear the power of dumb people.

12/04/2007 02:05:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Professional jurors, made up of learned citizens with a basic understanding of law, science and statistical analysis would make trial lawyers (pardon our language) shit bricks. Even if it never came to be, it would provoke such a wave of reform in the system that we'd get closer to what the Founding Fathers envisioned as trial by jury. At the very least, it deserves debate.
--------------

Not a bad idea, but WHO gets the j-o-b?? Is is a government job? A private setocr job? Who pays their checks? Can Daley make 20% management picks?? Does Jesse Jackass get his people in???

I contend that MANY notions in the Constitution were not ment to be around this long! If the Founders could see what happened to this country they would puke. Five going on six presidential terms going to 2 "royal" families? IRS? The Federal Reserve? Pres' Andrew Jackson AND Abe Lincoln did not want such a thing.

Who is my peer anyway? Although not in the Constitution (like many other things), has come about through legal precedent. So JF et al should be tried infront of 12 cops? Mookie the dope boy should be tried by the CVL's?? An illegal Mexican that got DUI'ed by other illegals???

The fact of the matter is that people are stupid. And if you are not taking advantage of them, then you just are not an American. Case in point: The Housing Bubble!

12/04/2007 02:07:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You tell them SCC!!!!!

12/04/2007 06:05:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You are soo correct. Most people on juries today couldn’t even tell you the definition of what impartial means. In high media case trials, most people on juries only concern is to get the most media coverage than another jury member to gets paid and sending a message is modern speak for a “witch hunt” from the past.

Every time I go in front of the grand jury at 26/cal, it is always a joke what is going on during my testimony. Many times females are usually filing their nails; some others are staring off into space, or not paying attention at all.

12/04/2007 06:58:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You asked if we ever saw a cop on a jury. The answer is yes. My ex was on a jury for an armed robbery case and the Public Defender let a cop sit on the jury even though she had premptories left. The officer was the jury foreman. When they went to deliberate, the officer said the defendant was guilty, but they should talk about it rather than let him influence everyone. Two hours later, they came back with a guilty verdict.

12/04/2007 07:09:00 AM  
Blogger rosco said...

The system has failed. The jury pool people look like goons and freaks. The jury system is outdated.Maybe OK for Washington and Jefferson. If they saw what this country has become, I think we would have just stayed an English colony.

12/04/2007 07:34:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

One reason why we provide an "education" to everyone is so they can do two things,
1. VOTE INTELLIGENTLY
2. Serve on a JURY in the same manner

This is why it is so important to have a working, viable school system. This is also why our culture and society as we know it is destined to die, because the number of people graduating from our public schools who could even speak intelligently is so few, that we won't be able to sustain our system or culture for very long....

12/04/2007 07:40:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Save ASSHAT!

12/04/2007 08:03:00 AM  
Anonymous westside21 said...

SCC - I have a notice ordering me to report for jury duty on 11 December at 26th and Cal. Ordinarily, I wouldn't mind going, but I go on furlough tomorrow. Any suggestions?

12/04/2007 09:09:00 AM  
Blogger Rue St. Michel said...

AMEN SCC! What a poignant post.

I was thinking back on the stories posted about Leo "let 'em go" Holt.

I know that there are a slough of coppers who've had negative experiences with terrible judges like Holt.

Does anyone know if there is a resource to track judges and their decisions?

12/04/2007 09:15:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

SCC for president!!!

12/04/2007 09:32:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Did a stint at call back a couple of years ago. Took a call from some uneducated, TV influenced being who was reporting her car had been hit and she believed she knew the car who hit hers because of the paint that was left on her car. Long story short she actually demanded that we come out and do a "paint sample" to make a match of who she believed hit her parked car leaving minor damage. When i expressed to her that the CPD is not CSI she blew a gasket. My point is, this is the mentality of many people if not the majority who sit on juries and actually think it works and happens just like CSI. Amazing and alarming isn't it.

12/04/2007 09:43:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am fairly liberal in my leanings, but I agree with SCC on juries.

There should be professional jurors who are trained on how to look at evidence.

As the adage goes: I would never want to be judged by people who were stupid enough to be unable to get out of jury duty.

12/04/2007 09:54:00 AM  
Blogger kateykakes said...

Every notice I've ever gotten for jury duty, I've gotten out of because my bf is a P/O, and according to the Commonwealth of PA, that could sway my decision.

It's not that I wouldn't want to serve, but I honestly don't feel I'm qualified to. I don't know the legal system, and to go in a court room pretending like I do, especially with someone's life in my hands - I feel the person wouldn't get a fair trial.

12/04/2007 10:15:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't believe that "jury" as accepted in the common American definition as "pretty much, 12 mopes picked at random", is the necessary definition. A "jury", could be any number of JURISTS, of any qualification, set by any relevant local court practice. The "jury" of 12 mopes is a recent solution to this question of fairness carved into stone by decades of hollywood and CSI practice, not authentic legal practice. In other words, its what the public expects, and, morons that they are, they suceed in getting the worst system that they could possibly imagine.

12/04/2007 11:14:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was on the CTA the other day and there was an ad on the wall for a company called OPINION WIZARD. They were seeking people for taste testing, focus groups and JURY RESEARCH.

JURY RESEARCH is an expensive process that only the defendents who are rich, as in O.J., or can raise a lot of volunteers, as in Angela Davis can afford.

And to, "Um, anyone worried about the Jury system should seriously give pause and ponder me this: Why do Bench Trials exist? Buller? Buller?

12/04/2007 01:30:00 AM"

Mike Mette had a bench trail.

Stay Safe, and as Frederick Douglas said there are three important boxes, "the cartridge box, the jury box and the ballot box."

12/04/2007 11:42:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I want to sit on a jury because I believe in Jury Nullification.

12/04/2007 11:47:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

We don't provide an Education to our children, we provide an imposed system of indoctrination and the suppression of critical thinking.

Neither our systems of education, nor our traditional methods of teaching 'family values', have resulted in our citizens being actually 'intelligent', 'thinking', 'rational', 'reasonable' individuals.

By design.

Our essential problems stem from our essential faults.

Our most egregious fault is our capacity to lie to ourselves.

When we, as a species, value truth above all else, we will have a chance to continue to exist.

Until then, we will all continue to suffer, some more than others, some less than others.

One Truth we choose to deny is that we all die.

How different might our actions be, if we begin by choosing to acknowledge this one, essential Truth?

12/04/2007 04:05:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am torn....jurys suck, but I still believe judges are worse. Most of them have political agendas.

12/04/2007 04:26:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

SCC, every point you made is valid. The problem is, what is the solution??? I'm guessing you would have to train to be a juror and go to some kind of school. Higher education tends to liberal in nature and the way school is taught tends to be very naive.

The system is broken badly. We need to blow the whole legal system up and start over.

12/04/2007 05:51:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Every time I go in front of the grand jury at 26/cal, it is always a joke what is going on during my testimony. Many times females are usually filing their nails; some others are staring off into space, or not paying attention at all.

12/04/2007 06:58:00 AM"

They'd rather spend their time engaged in worthwhile pursuits while being a captive audience to the proposterous tales you are spinning on the Witness Stand.
"He stood on one leg, spun around looked @ me cockeyed & dropped said narcotics to the ground, So help me God" Yeah OK...

BTW,I believe They have to sit on the Grand Jury for 30 Days!!!

12/04/2007 07:10:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

SCC - I have a notice ordering me to report for jury duty on 11 December at 26th and Cal. Ordinarily, I wouldn't mind going, but I go on furlough tomorrow. Any suggestions?

12/04/2007 09:09:00 AM

A Jury Duty summons comes to you via regular mail delivery. How can they prove that you actually received it? That was the gold standard in years past. Or, I believe you can call them and ask for another date.

12/04/2007 08:30:00 PM  
Blogger It's Not All Real said...

I've been called for jury duty about five or six times since I came on the job 20+ years ago. Every time they find out I'm the police, I'm excused. I wouldn't mind sitting on a jury as I believe I have a trace of intelligence in my head.

Jurors in civil trials act as if there is a bottomless pit of gold coins available to plaintiffs. Even when the plaintiff is wrong (think of an old lady, a cup of McDonald's coffee, a moving automobile) too many jurors think nothing of giving them "something" because they've suffered. If someone suffers because of their own stupidity, then let Darwin's law prevail.

In criminal trials, too many people watch CSI and think it's for real. Well...to those citizens who read this blog, CSI is by and large bullshit. It's never that easy.

Too bad I'm preaching to the choir, because the only way I see the jury system becoming viable is when EVERYONE has to take a turn in the box, and NO ONE gets out of it.

12/04/2007 10:17:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If we want to beliee in the commn law trend of a "jury of your peers" then a cop charged in a civil rights violation (shoting) should have a jury of former and present cops. Like that will ever happen. SCC is right. The jury is broke. A trial by judge is more fair...at least he will judge on the facts & evidence (we hope) and not emotion.

12/04/2007 10:43:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

your right SCC. ive talked to a few ASA'S and they even say that these juries today think they are on an episode of CSI and want to see DNA fingerprints and the guy from criminal intent that has all the answers. but it isnt the case.

12/04/2007 10:47:00 PM  
Blogger Rich Rostrom said...

Would you rather leave the power of guilt or innocence in the hands of judges? Look how many seriously incompetent and/or corrupt judges there are. We know that judges do get paid off sometimes. With jurors it seems a lot less likely.

Also, one bad jury affects only one case. A bad judge can screw up dozens or hundreds of cases.

The jury system was not set up because the People are more wise, honest, perceptive, or knowledgeable than judges. It's to insure that the government can't convict someone without confirmation by representatives of the people. It can also make it harder to make a case go away: a judge is a lot easier to turn than a jury.

"Professional" jurors would be part of the system. They could easily be co-opted by a dominant political faction. Then there would be no real check on the rulers squashing anyone they want to. (I'm thinking of the way things are going in the EU.)

There have been problems with juries for a long time. Read Mark Twain on this.

A few months back, Patterico had a thread where a lot of commenters posted jury experiences. Some were awful, but in most the jury took its work seriously.

The bad incidents come from the presence of stupid, ignorant, or bigoted citizens. That's a general problem, and needs a general solution.

Just a Civilian...

12/05/2007 12:50:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I want to sit on a jury because I believe in Jury Nullification.--------------------------------------
I do too. Remember Ceriale's first trial. 11-1 with one police-hating nullifier. I would go on a jury and nullify if I could and pay back as well.

12/07/2007 08:10:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jury_nullification

12/07/2007 10:12:00 AM  

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