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Jury system is it failing?

 
 
au1929
 
Reply Sun 16 Nov, 2003 10:56 am
O. J. Simpson, Durst and who knows how many more and the outrages awards made by juries leads me to ask is there something wrong with our jury system or juries. Does it need fixing and if so what would you suggest.
http://www.cnn.com/2003/LAW/11/12/ctv.durst.analysis/index.html
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Type: Discussion • Score: 2 • Views: 2,898 • Replies: 22
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cicerone imposter
 
  1  
Reply Sun 16 Nov, 2003 12:24 pm
au, Anything man does will have its failings, but in a democracy it's the best way to run our judicial system - by the people. The failings by police and lawyers are but one part of the total system. The 12 members of the jury can only make judgements depending on the skills of all concerned, and as we all know they are not always equal. When compared to our own life choices and how often we have failed to make the right decision, we know that nothing we do is perfect.
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jespah
 
  1  
Reply Sun 16 Nov, 2003 05:43 pm
And, jury duty has a rep of being something you just want to try and get out of. That's unfortunate; it's a part of our system and actually kind of interesting (then again, I'm biased). But the bottom line is, whenever you mention jury duty, most people will pelt you with possible excuses for getting out of it. It's seen as a burden. So, many of the people who do serve are the ones who just don't have anything better to do - and that may not be the best jury for the case at hand, in terms of justice being served.
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cicerone imposter
 
  1  
Reply Sun 16 Nov, 2003 09:40 pm
jespah, Actually I have a different opinion about jury duty. I have served in a rape-murder case that lasted three months. For me, that should be enough to satisfy my lifetime obligations for jury duty. I have volunteered to serve on the Santa Clara County Grand Jury. I was selected, and now serving for one year that ends on June 30, 2004. They are different forms of serving our community, and I think serving on a three month rape-murder trial and the grand jury should satisfy my obligations for the remainder of my life. I have also served on a jury in a civil case. That's over 15 months of jury service. Shouldn't that be enough for one citizen?
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ossobuco
 
  1  
Reply Sun 16 Nov, 2003 09:50 pm
I haven't served before, as my income was always tight and crucial, until I moved north a few years ago, and have recently been called but not picked. Now it is ideal, I could do short trials, and am glad to. My income is still tight and crucial but I can deal with a few days... Everything is close, the courthouse is four blocks from my work place and twelve from my house.
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au1929
 
  1  
Reply Mon 17 Nov, 2003 07:37 am
ossobuco
You said you could do short trials. Let me pose this question. Were you a juror on a trial and it ran longer than you could afford {financially]. How would that worry diminish your attention to the trial? In addition would you have a tendency in the decision phase [jury room] tend to go along with the majority just to reach a verdict and be released.
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jespah
 
  1  
Reply Mon 17 Nov, 2003 08:50 am
CI, the court system has antiquated record-keeping at best. They can't keep up with how long you last served. Heck, they can barely keep up with when you last served (I used to get notices all the time, even though here in Mass. the rule is that once you've served, you're exempt for 3 years, then the exemption runs out and you're back in the pool. Currently, I should be in the pool but I haven't heard from them in a few years. Go figure).

Also, this raises an interesting point: what's "enough"? You say over 15 months is enough, but what of the people who serve on cases that run over 2 years? There aren't many of these, but they do exist. What do we do after "enough" is up (by your definition, that's 15 months)? Get a new jury? Pay more? What?

I don't like the current system, and as a database and legal person I see ways that the records and methodology could be improved but still maintain Constitutional requirements. Excuses should be checked more carefully. The system should also reach into more areas (e. g. lists come from voter registration roles and often from automobile registration records. Why not just go through the phone book and pick up every single name?). Duplicate notices should be avoided (a well-crafted relational database will solve this problem). People should be called to serve only at the closest courts to their homes (again, this goes to a well-crafted relational database, which would include information on courthouse proximity to home addresses). All of this can be vastly improved if the database is overhauled. There are ways that this can be done without being too invasive vis a vis privacy.

Why not check birth records to confirm if someone is telling the truth when claiming they have to stay home with a small child? Why not have a system whereby someone's work is called or emailed, and their office is asked if they are such a vital employee that they can't take a day or two for jury duty? These are the 2 main excuses that people give for not serving. You can't confirm statements of bias (e. g. someone says "I'm prejudiced" as their reason for getting out of jury duty), but if it's something that can be independently confirmed, why not make the effort to do so?

While they're at it, improve the physical plant. Jury rooms are uniformly depressing and uncomfortable (I've been in jury rooms and court rooms in Delaware, NY and Mass.). It's never fun but at least it shouldn't have to be so dull and uncomfortable. I know that the courts try, and I know they are hamstrung by tiny budgets. But if we as a society care at all about this system, why not shovel in at least enough money to keep the rooms clean, and purchase comfortable seating? There's a lot of sitting and waiting, as you know.

And, particularly when there's a verdict that comes down that a lot of people don't like (Rodney King, OJ Simpson, for example), why don't politicians seize upon that as an opportunity to get more courthouse funding? Don't like what juries have to say? Then make it easier and more pleasant for jurors to serve. Some verdicts are just going to be unpopular, and throwing money at the courts doesn't provide a solution, of course. But there was a huge outcry in both instances and California did nothing re its court system/jury system.
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Sofia
 
  1  
Reply Mon 17 Nov, 2003 08:57 am
Is "Runaway Jury" a reality?
Jury for hire? Profiling of jurors that reaches WAY beyond the courtroom questioning?
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jespah
 
  1  
Reply Mon 17 Nov, 2003 09:09 am
Hey, Sofia, haven't seen you in a while. :-D
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au1929
 
  1  
Reply Mon 17 Nov, 2003 09:16 am
Sofia
Missed you.
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cicerone imposter
 
  1  
Reply Mon 17 Nov, 2003 10:09 am
IMHO, anybody that serves two years in a jury trial deserves to be exempt for the rest of their lives. I know too many people who are eligible to serve but has never been called up to serve. That "pool" will be enough to replace all those people that gets an exemption. I served on two trials, but my wife has never served in a jury. I know family and friends who have never served in a jury trial. As for jury pay, they can certainly increase it from the current $16/day to something like $25/day - a more reasonable pay considering the cost of living in our area. The whole system as it's run today stinks. Their are many areas for improvement - many that you have described, but I doubt we'll see any improvement during my lifetime.
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ossobuco
 
  1  
Reply Mon 17 Nov, 2003 10:53 am
au1929 wrote:
ossobuco
You said you could do short trials. Let me pose this question. Were you a juror on a trial and it ran longer than you could afford {financially]. How would that worry diminish your attention to the trial? In addition would you have a tendency in the decision phase [jury room] tend to go along with the majority just to reach a verdict and be released.


I mean, au, that I am self-employed and cannot take more than a few days off of work. I don't take vacations much either. Our work flow is dependent on clients being happy, and as part of the contract we give a date when they can expect the designs we do.

When I went to a call for jurors (whatever you call the beginning of the process) last year, the instructor told us most of the trials were short and that if we could not participate as a juror in a longer trial to say so.

No, I wouldn't let outside factors affect my jurying decisions making.
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au1929
 
  1  
Reply Mon 17 Nov, 2003 11:02 am
ossobuco
I understand your dilemma. It is the same one faced by the greater majority of the working public. That unfortunately what make being called for jury duty so feared and serving shunned. That is also why juries can never be accused of being filled by the best and the brightest
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ossobuco
 
  1  
Reply Mon 17 Nov, 2003 11:20 am
I live in a relatively unpopulated county and it apparently is true that most of the trials are short. In that case, I am glad to serve.
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Sofia
 
  1  
Reply Mon 17 Nov, 2003 01:06 pm
Jespah,
So nice!
Very Happy
AU,
So sweet.
Missed you, too.

I'm gathering thread participants don't place a lot of credence in the "bought jury" scenario. I sure did think of it with the Durst verdict. Exclamation
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Walter Hinteler
 
  1  
Reply Mon 17 Nov, 2003 01:21 pm
We don't have juries here in Germany, but we have lay judges ("Schöffe") at the municipal courts. (For all charges, which could get more than 6 month prison or which the prosecution doesn't send to a single judge.)

This is an "honorary post", which you have to accept. (However, you must get through a kind of selection, namely you have to proposed by parties, charities, churches, ... or even by yourself and than chosen by the community and the court.)

You get fully paid for that time.

(I can't get chosen, since I've studied law and worked as a probation officer.)
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ossobuco
 
  1  
Reply Mon 17 Nov, 2003 05:17 pm
I missed you too, Sofia!
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Sofia
 
  1  
Reply Tue 18 Nov, 2003 08:23 am
Thank you kindly, osso! Very Happy

I think jury duty really is one of our civic responsibilities. I would have to be in an awful situation to try and dodge it. I couldn't serve in a case that could be charged to choose Capital Punishment. I'd have to tell them that could never be a choice for me.

Anyone else feel they couldn't vote to execute?
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au1929
 
  1  
Reply Tue 18 Nov, 2003 08:54 am
Virginia jury convicts sniper suspect

VIRGINIA BEACH, Virginia- A state jury has found John Allen Muhammad guilty of capital murder, conspiracy and firearms charges.
They at least got this one right.

Sofia
In this instances I could vote for capital punishment in the wink of an eye. I would even supply the rope.
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joefromchicago
 
  1  
Reply Tue 18 Nov, 2003 09:25 am
Sofia wrote:
Anyone else feel they couldn't vote to execute?

Me.

But then I've served jury duty three times and haven't been picked yet. Once I divulge that I'm a lawyer no one wants to put me on a jury.
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