Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Is Blind Justice Also Deaf And Dumb?

This is the second time in as many years Hub has been tapped for jury duty. Last go round he was shocked to find out that no transcript was available for use during deliberations. Because of that and memory issues of the jurors the result was a hung jury.

Yesterday he was not chosen to sit on the panel but he had an equally disturbing tale to tell of the proceedings prior to jury selection. The case was a complex one. A doctor was being sued for an incident that resulted in the loss of a life. The particulars are not as important as the procedures.

Now here's Hub. A man in his sixties who has no children. Medical terminology, especially most things having to do with women, is a foreign language to him. He had never heard of the type of incident that had caused the death. Yet had his name been drawn he could have served.

He's a smart guy and would have followed the proceedings with no trouble but it would have been a definite learning curve. How many others that were chosen would have the same issue? I would guess most.

Just what exactly is a jury of one's peers anyway? Would it be people who had the same experience or members of the medical community with a different point of view? Certainly members of the public that have no idea of what's being discussed shouldn't qualify. But they do. They have to. There are only so many potential jurors to go around. It certainly puts a tremendous burden on the prosecution to prove beyond a reasonable doubt!

Once empaneled jurors seem to take their task quite seriously, as well they should, but I wonder at there not being a transcript available for reference. Even with avid note taking by individual members of the jury, what they think they heard may vary from member to member.

Take me. I can't sit for long periods because of back pain. I'd be spending more time fidgeting to find a position of comfort than I would listening, what's more concentrating. I don't hear so well any more. My eyes aren't what they used to be. If a detail was sticky I'd sure want that transcript to rely on for accuracy.

They keep raising the age and shortening the time between service for jury duty in this area. While I know many who have lived here far longer than we have never been called, we have several times over. Random selection so we've been told. I'll accept that premise with reluctance. I would guess they rely on retirees to a great extent because the five to ten dollars a day they pay doesn't make up for a much needed day's pay for a bread winner, small business owner or the self-employed.

All that being said, trial by jury is a right. I just think the jurors should be given all the help possible to reach a fair and just verdict. Having a transcript of the proceedings available should be a given.

1 comment:

Sylvia K said...

You are so right!