Thread: Trial By Jury
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Old 19th May 2020, 05:48 PM   #3
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Originally Posted by Thor 2 View Post
So what do others here think about trial by jury as being the best and fairest way to reach a verdict? From my youth I always thought it the obvious best, but with the passing of years and knowledge gained, I'm not so sure any more.

I think the guy in the street may not be the best judge in assessing evidence. Perhaps someone who has more expertise and less vulnerability, to the persuasive skills of talented lawyers, is better suited to the task. It is the knowledge of those innocents having been convicted and later released, that I read about, as well as personal experience in the witness box, leading me to this opinion.

Some years ago I was witness to a stabbing where the victim almost died. My recollection of the detail of the assault itself and the identity of the assailant was clear. The assailant was apprehended by the police and brought back to the scene of the crime where we, the witnesses, were.

After the assault the police (just one guy) was on the scene in minutes, told all present to say where we were, and set off in pursuit of the assailant. We, the witnesses, talked.

For some reason someone mentioned he thought the assailant wore glasses, and although I had no recollection of this, my mind put glasses on his head. They were there when I eventually made my statement to the police.

Some time later, giving evidence at the trial, the defence lawyer made a strong point about my making this observation (as it happened the guy was not wearing glasses), and cast doubt on the veracity of my evidence.
Your anecdote establishes the unreliability of witnesses more than it establishes the unreliability of jurors.

Having sat on a jury myself (and been foreman since no-one else wanted the honour), I can say that the jury is not asked to assess the evidence, they are asked to assess the arguments. The evidence is there to support the arguments made by the lawyers, and prosecution and defence will present different evidence.

The other thing is that jurors are not asked to interpret the law. In fact, we were sent out to the jury room for a considerable time while the lawyers debated about a specific interpretation of the law (specifically, whether it is lawful to use reasonable force to resist an unlawful arrest (turns out, it is)). When we were brought back to the courtroom, the judge gave us the interpretation of the court and we went on from there.

So my answer to your question is the same as Churchill's answer about democracy. Trial by jury is the worst justice system, apart from all those others that have been tried from time to time.
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