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Are Jury Trials Still the Best Choice?


fourm member

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Rather than hijack my own thread, I thought I'd start a new one.

In South Africa, Oscar Pistorius will be tried in front of a panel who will be selected because they have the knowledge to reach a fair decision.

In the UK, Vicky Pryce is facing a retrial after, at least some, of the jury in her case turned out to have no understanding of what it was supposed to do.

You cannot stop information about alleged offenders from getting out ahead of a trial and you may not be able to trust a prospective juror who says they have no opinion in advance of hearing the evidence.

Do we need to replace juries with panels? Or, do we need to keep all accused anonymous until a trial is concluded?

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WhiteTruckMan

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FE

Precisely. Does anyone know if in fact they have a grasp of english. And if not, what were they doing serving on a jury? It might sound like a simplistic question, but although I have read this story in a number of places, I have yet to see any account of the fluency of the jurors involved other than vague assertions by the judge.

WTM

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bremner

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In the past it was often said that a jury was made up of twelve people too stupid to have got out of jury service. To some degree that has now changed with tightening of rules for being stood down and because many professionals, including those in the legal profession, are no longer automatically exempt.

The jury in this case were idiotic from what the judge has said but this was very much the exception. Hundreds of trials are ongoing across the country in any week and we very very rarely hear of such idiocy.

Of much greater concern, as previously mentioned, is the practice of jurors making their own inquiries into defendants, witnesses and legislation via the Internet and then bringing that knowledge into the jury room. This will require very careful consideration by legislators.

Trial by jury is a fundamental part of our legal system and I believe will remain so for the foreseeable future - that said I predict more Crown Court trials will be held in front of Judge only panels for complicated frauds and those involving organised crime.

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WhiteTruckMan

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Hundreds of trials are ongoing across the country in any week and we very very rarely hear of such idiocy.

It's not outside the bouds of possibility that the reason we have heard of this is simply because of the high profile nature of the trial. Otherwise it might depend on it being a slow day on the news desk.

WTM

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Forum Editor

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"Hundreds of trials are ongoing across the country in any week and we very very rarely hear of such idiocy."

That doesn't mean it isn't happening. My guess is that it happens a lot. y wife did jury duty in a Crown Court a couple of years ago, and she said she was very disheartened by the attitude of some of her fellow jurors. They expressed disinterest in the whole process, and two of them were, in her opinion, unable to understand much about what was happening in court.

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fourm member

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'My guess is that it happens a lot.'

Which is sort of the point I was making when I said this jury wasn't as stupid as is being said, widely.

It had the sense to ask about what it didn't inderstand whereas, it seems, plenty of jurors bumble through, checking the Internet every night to see what's being said and basing their decision on things that were not presented in evidence.

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Aitchbee

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They expressed disinterest in the whole process, and two of them were, in her opinion, unable to understand much about what was happening in court.

It had the sense to ask about what it didn't inderstand whereas, it seems, plenty of jurors bumble through, checking the Internet every night to see what's being said and basing their decision on things that were not presented in evidence.

If members of the Jury were allowed to record what was said during the Trial [on a personal voice recorder], they could reflect/remember things? on the day's procedings 'at their leisure, and perhaps 'take in' and make a better final judgement on the accused.

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Quickbeam

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WTM makes a valid point about peoples ability to understand what should be a normal activity.

Is it beyond reason to expect jurors to be capable of taking some sort of short 30 minute literacy and spoken English test that wouldn't cost much to administer? If they cant make head nor tail of it, then they're not good enough to be jurors.

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spuds

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It would appear that the thoughts on the forum are about peoples command of the English language or fully knowing the English language and grammar, but could I offer other possible suggestions?.

(1) The possible public school judge had been in the job to long, and he may have regarded any questions a bit above his professional status, and was regarding jury member's as rather stupid or irrelevant?.

(2) There were possibly 'armchair lawyers' in the jury, who may have seen to much television or read to much on the internet or from books. Some people do go to extremes when faced with jury service.

(3)Some of the jury member's wanted to be 100% sure, before committing themselves to a verdict, that might change someone's future life?.

My main concern would be based on how, why and by whom was this story leaked or submitted to the media?.

Another point possibly worth adding, is that a jury can perhaps give a guilty verdict, and that jury is dismissed, with the now convicted person being informed that they must attend court at a later date for a custodial sentence being suggested and given. Due to possible incidents a short time later, the judge can conduct a closed court session, using verbal evidence only, and then give an immediate prison sentence, including adding additional custody time for the latest incident.

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