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Do we need the jury system?

Posted by The New N Used Link Team on Tuesday, June 18, 2013


A jury trial is a legal proceeding in which a jury either makes a decision or makes findings of fact which are then applied by a judge. It is distinguished from a bench trial, in which a judge or panel of judges make all decisions. 

There are procedures for determining whether a case should come to court, similar to Grand Jury system and Courts of Appeals, but these too are presided over by a judge, and no juries are involved. There are many obvious problems with the entire jury system.  First and foremost, many trials are long and complicated, based on fine interpretations of jurisprudence far beyond the reach of jurors. The principle of the jury system is to assemble a panel of an accused’s ‘peers’ and not experts. But while this principle is laudable, would we rather have our case heard by a magistrate trained in the law, educated to render impartial judgment, and skilled in maintaining a civil and professional order in the courtroom; or by a ragtag collection of out-of-work retirees or civil servants?  All intellectual commitments to democracy by the people stops at the doors of the courthouse. Next, many jury trials last far more than the ‘one day, one trial; and knowing that jury duty may last a long, long time, anyone who is agile enough to get around the rules and regulations, will do so. Small businessmen, contractors, or anyone self-employed risks losing significant income and worse, lose clients who getting tired of waiting.  Even salaried professionals who do not lose income, cede ground within the company to others who take over their accounts, and find themselves surprisingly forgotten by even the most faithful clients who wanted their affairs settled. 

Anyone who lives in a major, crime-ridden jurisdiction can count on getting a jury summons like clockwork every two years.  There are so many crimes out there, and such a small pool from which to select jurors (so many residents are disqualified because of prison, parole, or criminal record), that such frequency is necessary to keep up with the demand.

Many cases come to court when they never should have, thus burdening the docket and the workload for everyone.  It is not enough that courts must deal with cases of murder, rape, aggravated assault, and armed robbery, they have to hear the most ludicrous and comical ones as well. I have walked by a courtroom some years ago where the trial was being held, I saw jurors nodding off, filing their nails, or simply looking at the ceiling.  They had been dragooned into sitting in a trial the proceedings of which they did not understand and which had little or no bearing on their lives. 

Jury duties differs in many countries based on their governing laws. In countries where jury trials are common, juries are often seen as an important check against state power. Other common assertions about the benefits of trial by jury is that it provides a means of interjecting community norms and values into judicial proceedings and that it legitimizes the law by providing opportunities for citizens to validate criminal statutes in their application to specific trials.

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