Wednesday, August 18, 2010

12 Men Good & Dumb

Former Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich who was caught on tape brazenly discussing how to sell Barack Obama's senate seat has been found not guilty on 23 out of 24 corruption charges by a jury. This begs the obvious question where do they get the morons to sit on juries?

This is a problem over here as well where there is nothing to stop people who are retarded fantasists from deciding the fate of somebody's life.

The problem seems to me to be that the people who sit on juries are usually the people who have nothing better to do, people who have not been entrusted with any great responsibility by anyone who actually knows them are the ones who get to determine whether someone is guilty or not.

The jury system needs quality control in order to actually work.


Weekend Yachtsman said...

Like voting.

Bring back the property qualification.

H said...

I've been on 3 juries. I thought my fellow jurors were (with 2 exceptions) sane and thoughtful. Not bad, really, for names selected at random.

On the trial in question, it's customary to observe that only the jurors have seen all the evidence. Media reporting is often highly partial. I can speak from personal experience on this, because one of 'my' trials attracted some media attention. The press attended heavily on the first day and reported the prosecution's case and the charges in great detail. But the defence and subsequent acquittal went almost completely unobserved.

TDK said...

I've also been on three juries and would echo H. By and large the people were sensible and thoughtful. There was one exception where a female jury was determined that the defendant was guilty on the grounds that the barrister looked like a weasel. However she was totally ridiculed and then shut up.

I'm not sure why I've been picked three times when most people I know have never been picked at all. When I believe it used to be the case that only the leading name on the electoral roll was used. Perhaps it still is.

I applied to miss the third time they refused on the grounds that I lived in a different area. Another person on the jury was a solicitor. Until recently this group was one of several that were exempt. He too applied for excusal but was refused. Thus I am unsure why you suppose that juries consist of people who have nothing better to do, people who have not been entrusted with any great responsibility by anyone who actually knows them

Whilst it's a nice idea that jury's have some kind of quality control, I wonder how that can be practically enacted. Your requirement for entrusted with .. great responsibility surely raises more questions. How great does it have to be? Is raising kids a great responsibility? In general it surely points to a restoration of the property qualification. I'm pretty sure how that idea would fly in these egalitarian multi-cultural times. And I have some sympathy - it is supposed to be a jury of your peers.

Also I'm not sure why you suppose he failure in Chicago was down to jury quality. Given the widely reported political corruption in the city and the perceived "attack" on Obama that this case represented, other factors would seem to be more likely.

alison said...

Jury of your peers. Except that more often than not they are not one's peers if selected at random from the census. How can they be? Any moron can vote.

TDK said...

Let's say we qualify jury members or the basis of "not being a moron". How might that work?

There have been two cases recently that brought in odd verdicts. In the first, some environmentalists caused damage to a power station and were acquitted on the grounds that they were saving the Earth. A similar outcome occurred when anti-Israeli protesters attacked a factory in the South of England that was supposedly supplying the IDF. I would suggest that young university educated people are far more likely to have supported these causes and they or their parents more likely to have acquitted than the average citizen.

Education is not a proof against stupidity. As Orwell said

You must be an intellectual. Only an intellectual could say something so stupid.

Intelligence falls in a bell curve. There are as few morons as there are geniuses. Therefore a random jury is unlikely to pick either. The question is whether other factors bias the outcome such as a non random pick or a significant number of excusals by the relatively cleverer.

Ross said...

Weekend Yachtsman- People who have inherited property aren't likely to be any wiser than those who haven't.

H & TDK- OK some juries are okay, maybe it depends upon where they draw the jurors from. The problem of overly politicised juries in environmental and defence cases is problematic as it essentially makes a mockery of the law.

Alison- We haven't had a jury of ones peers for a very long time, which is probably a good thing as they'd be too partial.

Peter Risdon said...

It isn't quite that bad - the 23 charges are likely to be re-tried, according to the NYT earlier today. The jury were 11-1 in favour of guilty verdicts in at least some of them. They just couldn't reach unanimity.

DJ said...

WHAT???? You mean randomly strong-arming innocent members of the public into taking in part in tossy agitprop productions of 'Glorious State Delivering Justice for Huddled Masses' occasionally leads to farce? Who'd have thunk it?

Meanwhile, how come all the legal weasels who claim forced labour is vital for justice are also the ones who claim the public has no right to criticise lax sentencing, as they're not qualified to have an opinion?

James Higham said...

Stacked jury? It's not unknown.

Robert said...

Rod has always been a despicable anti-gun nut, but prosecutors have less ethics than algae.

Ross said...

Peter- if it was 11-1 on all those counts then I suppose I shouldn't blame all the jurors.

Weekend Yachtsman said...

@Ross - you are quite right.

However: (1) the number of people who own property because they have inherited it is actually rather small - far smaller, for instance, than the number of ignorant tossers to be found in a random sample of the electoral roll; and (2) anyone who owns property - however acquired - is likely to feel that they have some sort of stake in the continuance of civilised society. This concentrates the mind a little.

Anonymous said...

Why not try trial by combat. You could even hire a professional champion. Make a good video.

Ross said...

Let's just bring back trial by ordeal, we can duck defendents in the water and if they sink then they're not guilty.