The Jury System

What part of this seems like a good idea? You’ve got a panel of not random people who are not your peers who are selected by the opposing lawyers and then pulled from their respective jobs in the real world to go hang out in this farcical made-up world where varying viewpoints and parlor tricks are conjured in order to either curry sympathy or to appeal to moralistic senses of justice. God forbid if there’s a mis-trial or a Hung Jury; you might actually hang yourself in either scenario.

Let me back up. Our court system is a broken piece of shit. On paper, it’s a great thing to draw out the process of finding out whether someone is guilty of something by stringing beauracratic red tape and spending tax dollars to “imprison” someone prior to them being officially imprisoned for the thing some people may or may not remember clearly since so much time has passed. Maybe on paper, that seems like a good idea, but the reality of it is a morass of setting dates and lawyer fees and drawing in public opinion when cold hard facts could be judged quite clearly, quickly, and easily by a professional who I dunno…. went to “court school”?

Why do they care what the plebians think and more importantly, why MUST they care what the plebians think? You can even receive penalties for choosing not to play your “civic duty” of jumping through hoops in the 3 ring circus of a system, much harsher than any kind of public transportation punishment you must endure to get to that very building downtown. In addition to having to dress up nice (which I loathe doing), getting a daily pay cut, and having to listen to weasel-y lawyers pitch their A-game derivatives, which are modeled after cinema’s bizarre court fetish films like My Cousin Vinny and A Few Good Men, you can  receive jail time and a hefty fine? Count me out.

I once heard that being judged by a jury is literally having your life in the balance by 12 people who weren’t smart enough to get out of jury duty. And the bored. Let’s throw in the Bored. To get out of “serving” you can literally say that you’re prejudiced against a race, say that you don’t trust lawyers, or make up some crazy story about how your relative was in the exact same situation and that you can help because you follow ALL of the television court dramas. You’re already out of a full day’s pay and they give you less money than is required for parking validation, so you might as well cut and run. And they don’t “let” you keep the Juror badge pinned to your Sunday’s best? A commemorative pin for the time that they hauled you out of bed or away from earning a daily wage is the least they could do.

What the fuck does the general populace know about justice anyways? All they’ve got is CSI derivatives and an intense interest suckled via movies and the news. I’m not arguing that the point is to get “bystanders” to “fairly” judge the way a man’s life will turn out, but come on…. WHY is the point to get this sort of person? In reality, the courts will acquire a handful of people who are itching to figure out what happened, who probably convene outside of the striped tent to discuss or do research on the case (since we don’t live in a damned bubble) or pretty much everything the Judge tells you not to do. Even IF they get a hapless citizen who doesn’t know better and hadn’t already surmised their final opinion based on the first day of testimony, WHY does the court want this type of individual? Wouldn’t they rather have a jaded court dungeon-rat who sees this sort of thing day-in and day-out, someone who has actual experience with degenerates, the law, and the subsequent punishments?

Oh, THAT guy is already there! The judge is sitting at the head of this parade directing what can and can not be mentioned, what can and can’t be “disallowed”. Let me ask this: Once a lawyer says something out of line, how the hell are the 12 people on the sidelines supposed to pretend it never happened, or that it wasn’t said? Bang your little toy hammer a bit to let them know that you are serious, that whatever comment is intended to be stricken from every one’s memories is off the record.

Here’s an idea, since all of those rubes that got roped into this thing have the least amount of experience, and that all of the theatrics are intended to sway them one way or another, let’s let the guy in the black pajamas who insists on his “honor” being addressed instead of his name, let’s let THAT guy run the show without the audience. It would be a helluva lot quicker, cheaper, and it’s nearly guaranteed it would be less of a stage production that rivals the local community college’s weekend presentations of broadway classics. Better yet, make Professional Juror an actual paying job! Take the burden away from the rest of us. Or let screeching fame-whores like Judge “Harpy” Judy rule the roost and surmise a solution after hearing 10 minutes of interrupted dialogue. I don’t care. Leave me out of it.

jury

This spectators' box forces both attendance and participation in
the worst community theater since Barnum and Bailey.

If the point of the jury is to surround the criminal with his peers, let’s analyze that for a sec. If you wanted a random selection, you would choose people at random. I suppose that is how those summons go out, but it is such a massive pool of pedestrians milling about, just WAITING to not be called that manual selections HAVE to take place. But instead of choosing ratios of demographics based on local race, religion, and creed, you get panels with all men, all women, all whites, all middle class family-oriented people, etc. “All” of anything is a point of failure, but where are the punks and the others that flesh out the smaller percentages of our society? Where are the gangstas? Where are the minorities and the lower class?

The brainwashed intensely-interested lady demographic is certain to be represented and the thoughtful middle-aged white man who seems polite will get picked, but where are the others? All I’m saying is that this is not a cross-section of society, nor is it composed of people even remotely similar to the defendant, but rather a guided hand-picking of patsies that the lawyers believe will agree with them. Justice?

Just because both sides can “cheat” doesn’t mean it is fair. If a young hispanic man gets tried for murder on the “bad” side of town, how is an old protestant grandma on the opposite side considered his peer? Where are the criminal’s friends from down the block? The people that know him? Sure they can testify, but they have no real sway in the final decision even though they all have to live with the guy should he be let go. Instead, let’s give that authority to Joe Schmoe, a Jewish cashier who has better things to do than get a glimpse of the under-belly of criminal justice that he has worked his life to avoid. Can 12 civilians consistently put aside their differences to judge someone fairly? If you hesitate to answer that question, then the answer is resoundingly “not all of the time”, ergo this is a sloppy bit of wasted efforts and money in the guise of unanimity and fairness. The military will probably never have a draft again, so why the hell are these people getting “drafted” every day.

And who is to say that people don’t simply give up when the pressure is on? Those 12 people have to “agree” on what they tell the courts when all is said and done. I can’t get two people to agree on pizza toppings, and even the Supreme Court Justices (which already sounds like a pizza topping) are typically split right down the middle with many judgments. If you get some civilian hard-ass aggressive juror hell-bent on a verdict, he’s going to bully the others and succeed. 12 Angry men anyone? What part of that seems right? You throw in that I’ve heard (no fact-checking please) that up to 10 percent wrongful convictions take place and you’ve got an expensive, sluggish, quasi-immoral, beast of a system that claims 90 percent success rate. 1/10 lives ruined unfairly is not a good track record though I suppose that appeals, parole, and “good behavior” where punishments don’t stick, self-segregated prison rape happens, and we cram more convicts into institutions that train them to be even more “hardened criminals” (all possible on the public’s dollar) isn’t the best idea in the first place anyways.

With any kind of karmic humor, that felon can get probation and serve on a different jury of his own, a completely legal possibility in some states.

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