Saturday, February 21, 2015

Experience of a jury foreman

An anonymous comment came in over night on an old forgotten post about Mark Lundy and the group who supports his innocence, FACTUAL.  I thought it worth sharing:

In 2005, I was Jury Foreman at a Murder trial in the Auckland High Court. The trial lasted 3 weeks, followed by 36 hours of deliberation. What impressed me most about that experience, was the number of my fellow jurors who had made up their mind about the defendant's guilt or innocence, long before the trial was completed! The inevitable result was a "hung jury" followed by a retrial, some 4 months later. The ultimate verdict was one that I expected. What I had NOT expected was the fickleness and prejudice that 12 "ordinary New Zealanders" allowed to influence their ability to assess evidence - fairly and impartially. My experience (and naturally, you are free to differ in your opinion) is that all trials should be heard and assessed by a panel of judges - experts in Law and not influenced in their thinking by the colour of someone's skin, their age or any other demographic that activates a juror's personal values. There is only one requirement worth it's salt in a court-room: impartial, objective facts and responses - and not subjective, emotive reactions.
I've never been on a jury. Was called once but it was when my first born was under one and I asked to be excused. What is your experience, if you have one?

(I would note that the commenter also had 'expectations' about the verdict. Not sure what he intended by that remark.)


Psycho Milt said...

Have done it once. As in your commenter's experience, was horrified at the way some seemed to reach a decision based on how they'd felt about some particular witness.

I don't think trial by panel of judges would be any better though - they're as human as anyone else.

Anonymous said...

Actually we need to change the process to one of finding out the truth rather than a contest of the highest paid barrister or lawyer.

Jim Rose said...

Gordon Tullock was a big critic of juries. He referred to them as amateur judges.

Anonymous said...

Been unlucky enough to have been on three juries.

On one jury for an assault case, the accused was obviously guilty at beating up her soon to be ex-husband with his golf clubs. But it was also obvious that the husband was a slimeball who manufactured the assault so as to get custody of the children, the house and settle down with his mistress. The evidence to the court said the accused was guilty - but as jurors we could see the actual situation. We retired for five minutes, and came back with a Not Guilty verdict.

So juries do serve a good purpose - by having ordinary people making the decision they can often bring a wisdom that the strictly legal system can overlook.

Every jury I have been on I am convinced made the right decision.