Is the grass greener…

“The Jury” 

Did you watch the TV programme “The Jury”? Did you find yourself shouting at the TV? How did it make you feel? Were you dismayed? Did it leave you with a sense of foreboding; thinking there must a better option?

Well it got me thinking about what perceptions may be in light of this and whether those who are not involved in the law might struggle with the idea that 24 people sitting on 2 separate juries could reach different conclusions based on narrow facts. For those of you who are in the camp of the system is broken and how can be have a fair system with juries then I would urge you to consider the alternatives to jury trial.

Do you really think that a judge or ‘professional jury’ will reach the same verdict on the same case every time?  They won’t.

A stand along judge or ‘professional jury’ will not always reach the same conclusion as others performing the same role. Repeat this experiment with 12 separate people (judges) or groups of ‘professional jurors’ and see if you get 12 consistent verdicts every time. You won’t.

So why do we have 12 people?  It’ is not because we have a perfect system; it is so we have 12 random voices with different experiences, opinions and backgrounds resulting in active deliberation as the best system. Remember that bit when you were shouting at your tv? The bit where you are challenging someone else’s view/s… Well… that is precisely the point! That is deliberation! That is system!

A single judge sitting with their own opinions and views with no one to challenge, discuss or justify their position with – do you think this would be more or less fair?

A ‘professional juror’ listening to their 15th, 50th, 1500th trial; do you think they could become case-hardened? Weary? Sceptical?

What if a decision-maker holds a view that is fallible or outdated or has another side to it – what then? Who challenges it? Who discusses it with them? A judge on their own? A group of professionals all similar in nature?

How many judges or professional jurors do you think would be 21 years old, students, unemployed? How many are from minority groups, live difficult lives in poverty or housing instability? Ask yourself how could you ever replicate the randomness of a jury?

 Now don’t get me wrong, it’s a human system. With a different jury on a different day then things might be different.  I am not saying that the system as it stands could not be improved but there is a lot to be proud about.  Juries continue in a course of action in the most heartbreaking, testing cases. They do their duty.

And remember with a randomly selected jury (not one/s selected for TV), and with proper legal directions (not curtailed on TV), it remains… the best… the fairest… system we have found.

I think those who want change should be very careful what they wish for… The grass isn’t always greener.

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