Saturday, June 25, 2005

Trial by Jury

In comments to yesterday’s post, Robert Downey Jr said “celebrity juries suck!”, citing OJ, Wacko Jacko and Robert Blake as examples. I doubt anyone would argue with that statement because trial by jury in those circumstances does not work in the interests of justice, but that has to be an unfortunate consequence of our system because trial by jury is necessary to guard against oppression and preserve liberty.

In the past, juries have been an important defence against tyranny largely due to the establishment of the principle that juries can refuse to convict on the basis of conscience - Bushell’s Case 1670. The Salem witch trials were finally ended in 1693 because juries refused to convict, and one of the reasons Prohibition was brought to an end in 1933 was that juries were refusing to convict people for alcohol-related offences.

The Declaration of Independence lists “depriving us, in many cases, of the benefits of Trial by Jury” as one of the proofs of the tyranny of George III and Great Britain. Our Bill of Rights guarantees us “the right of trial by jury” in both criminal and civil cases. Trial by jury is a fundamentally important institution in our society and we cannot do away with it. For that reason we cannot deprive celebrities of their right to trial by jury, even when we know there can never be justice in certain cases.

11 comments:

AG said...

"In comments to yesterday’s post, Robert Downey Jr said “celebrity juries suck!”, citing OJ, Wacko Jacko and Robert Blake as examples. "

Hasn't Robert Downey Jr heard that we should be considered innocent until proven guilty. The juries heard the evidence, and it is possible that the prosecution in each instance did not convince the juries in each case, of guilt. The burden of proof remains with the prosecution.

In a country where so many innocent people are unjustly accused and are sent to jail and, on the other side, the guilty may be released based on lack of evidence or incompetence on the part of the prosecution staff, perhaps we should reconsider who should be required to serve on juries, like maybe they should prove they have a university degree and can also read and write.

Max said...

AG, our system is far from perfect. I, for one, think justice could be served a lot better a lot of the time with a panel of 3 or 5 learned judges instead of a jury of potential idiots. However I think I have explained, albeit briefly, why juries are necessary.

As to OJ (I didn't follow the other 2 celebrity trials well enough to comment) - I think he was guilty and that the jury fucked up. My opinion.

Anonymous said...

One time we was all watching tv when oj was got arrested in his car. The police chased and chased that man silly but he just would not stop his car for nobody. We thought that man was going to kill them police. We was all real, real scared.

Sinister Steve said...

I think it is safe to say the having a university degee and being able to read and write does not exclude you from making dumb decisions. There are only about 10 billion law students in this country maybe we should make them sit on juries yor a year as part of an internship.

AG said...

Interesting you should bring up law students, steve. I worked as an accounting manager for law firms for over thirty years and was always excused from serving on a jury.

I was also told, by my colleagues, that lawyers and legal assistants were always excused from juries except for one secretary who was called for a murder trial that took several months to conclude.

Do you think it might have something to do with trial attornyes wanting people on the jury that they can manipulate?

Lance said...

Testing 123.

Monkey said...

Testing 42.

Sinister Steve said...

AG,

Simple answer......Yes.

I found it disturbing that one of the Jackson jurers attended his celebration party after the trial.

Still Robert Downey Jr said...

All of you missed my point. I was pissed because the losers on my trial didn't give me the same celebrity status...so what if I was high on coke, carrying tar heroin and packing a loaded 45.

I was in Weird Science, Air America and Soap Dish Damnit!!!

Knottyboy said...

But there are still instances in the bassackward states of juries being ethnically slanted to find blacks guilty. There is a lot of wiggle room for improvement.
k

Max said...

Still Robert Downey, Jr - don't be so egocentric: I was not responding to your comment on my last post; what you said simply provided inspiration to me to write about juries in general.

K - of course there is lots of room for improvement - there always is.

I'd like to write more but my broken body will not allow it.