A man will be arraigned on contempt charges for skipping out of jury duty during a lunch break. He cited boredom as his reason for leaving. While this was extremely stupid, I do sympathize with his plight. The process of jury selection is a tedious ordeal that I am familiar with. I took it upon myself to both offend a judge and make an entire courtroom, including the defendant, laugh out loud in an attempt to avoid being selected. Needless to say I was dismissed promptly from the manslaughter case. These light hearted stories provoke a serious question. Do jury’s of average citizens really equal justice? Innocent people have been sentenced to prison terms based on the judgment of random strangers. Would a false conviction be any more unjust if it came from a professional jury?
People are busy and few want to go through the headache of dealing with a jury trial. An even greater number of individuals are insufficiently educated to properly judge a case involving complex arguments and conflicting scientific evidence. The idea of being tried by a jury of your peers has been deeply ingrained into our society, but that’s not exactly what the constitution says. The 6th Amendment states, “the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the state and district wherein the crime shall have been committed” There is no requirement that the jury be made up of average folks off the street. The only requirement is that it be an impartial jury made up of people from the district wherein the crime was committed. Why not make sure that jury is comprised of well paid people who are actually able to fairly judge a case based on the evidence?
This seems foreign and unnatural to many. It may in fact provoke a response of both disgust & simultaneous dismissal. Any attempt to change the jury system, which has become iconic in many respects via Hollywood, would likely be meant with strong resistance. The initial intuitive resistance does not mean that this isn’t a debate worth having. It’s a complex issue with many factors to consider, but it’s become an increasingly necessary debate given the available jury pool.