Monday, October 17

Jury duty

Early tomorrow morning Karla heads off to Madera, the county seat, for an appointment with the criminal justice system. Perhaps she’ll end up sitting in the jury box at a trial to decide the fate of a robber, a rapist, a murderer.

The best way to get on a jury is to deny any knowledge of the case, sound like you understand the English language, have no preconceived notions regarding criminal justice, and look like you’re intelligent.

We’ll see if she’s selected to be one of the twelve, out of hundreds of thousands of county residents, who will have the fate of a human soul in her hands.

My experience with being a jury member leaves a sour taste. When my team presented the verdict of guilty of first degree murder, we all wanted to go home and hide under the covers for a week to diminish the guilt we felt for coming to that verdict. None of us felt good about it, and each of us probably blamed our decision on the perceived inviolability of the orders from the judge: If so-and-so is proved, then so-and-so must be the verdict. On reflection, we as a body should have rejected the judge’s instructions and nullified his orders. Problem is, the court system is rigged. Juries are told that the judge is the boss, and his or her instructions are to be followed. You would have to be on a jury at least once previously in order to game the system.

So why have a jury if that’s the case? One thing that is never told to the jury before they go in for deliberation is the instruction to “Vote your conscience.” Probably no judge in the last fifty years has used that phrase, which was routinely spoken a hundred years ago. Had we voted our conscience, the kid we sent to prison would be doing a sentence of a couple of years for bad behavior instead of twenty-five years to life for a really minor part in a crime committed by a dozen youngsters. I’m sure the prosecutor was interested only in enhancing his image of toughness, hoping to advance in the ranks of nasty bastards so he could get a higher-ranking position in the political game he was into.

Shame on me. I won't commit that crime again.

Update: After being held for hours, the prospective jurors were released around 3:00 in the afternoon. Thanks but no thanks.


Anonymous said...

A few years ago, A lot of us were ordered to report for jury duty. once the lawyers found out that we were able to interpret data we were all dismissed. Towards the end of this time period, one scientist got his notice, and was selected to serve on a Jury. When he returned to work, he complained to two other scientist that "I was told they didn't select scientist" The other two said with one voice "maybe they couldn't tell."

Daffy said...

...the whole "justice" system has little to do with justice...for the accused or the victim; be it criminal or civil case. i'm reminded of what absolute scorn was poured on the system by Dickens in many of his novels...he had obviously some first hand dealings with it; found it repugnant. it is to this day...utterly repugnant...if you have a choice...hide in Canada; rather than sully yourself with any of it !