Jul
09

Time for Professional Jurors

By

Casey Anthony was found “Not Guilty” of murder.  O.J. Simpson was found “Not Guilty” of murder.  Being a trial lawyer in the Dallas / Fort Worth area since 1994, it seriously concerns me when I see jury after jury deliver questionable verdicts.  It’s about time that we as a nation reconsider our jury system before the United States becomes the laughing stock of other judicial systems around the world.  In my opinion, the answer is simple:  Professional jurors.

Twelve jurors and five alternate jurors were impaneled in the Casey Anthony case.  The jurors were sequestered for six weeks, having no meaningful contact with the outside world.  This was done to ensure that the jurors were not “prejudiced” by outside influences.  What our judicial system fails to recognize, however, is that jury misconduct is more often the result of improper deliberations rather than the result of outside influences.  To add insult to injury, jury deliberations are held in private and are confidential.  If we were permitted to record and watch jury deliberations, I wouldn’t be surprised to see some form of jury misconduct in every single case.

Essentially, our jury system operates on the dangerous premise that random members of the general public do not possess the requisite knowledge or training to serve as jurors.  This is why the presiding judge must provide the jury with the “Charge of the Court.”  The ”Charge” is nothing more than a fancy term for the very specific and lengthy written instructions which the judge first reads aloud in open court and then provides to the jury (to be read aloud again) in deliberations.

Professional jurors, on the other hand, would not need these lengthy and complicated instructions.  Professional jurors would undergo an in-depth training and certification program designed to educate them as to the dynamics of their role as jurors.  Professional jurors would be taught how to recognize and avoid improper deliberations by learning and appreciating how improper deliberations can effect the outcome of a case.  Professional jurors would be trained to disregard issues that are irrelevant, improper, speculative and prejudicial.  They would also be trained not to make public policy through their verdicts.

As an added benefit, so much of the court’s time and tax-payer money can be saved through a professional jury system.  There would be no need to conduct lengthy jury selections nor waste time reading extensive written instructions to the jury.  There would also be no need to maintain an elaborate system of summoning jurors nor would it be necessary to sequester a jury.  Furthermore, professional jurors would be sworn officers of the court, certified, and required to complete continuing education.  Finally, professional jurors would also be subject to severe sanctions, and even criminal penalties, for judicial misconduct.

Let’s face it.  Our current jury system is illogical and flawed.  Yet, the ironic truth is that our judicial system forces untrained laypeople to be the final voice in disputes that can effect the lives of those who rely on our courts to deliver proper justice.

For more information regarding wrongful death and personal injury cases in the Dallas & Fort Worth area, contact Attorney Robert C. Slim, at (214) 321-8225, for a free consultation.

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Comments

  1. Tom says:

    I agree, professional juries are an important next step in the upgrade of our US legal system. I have a plan, including requisites, training, education, compensation, etc, that I will institutionalize in my master’s thesis next year and examine further in my doctoral dissertation thereafter. Other countries use professional juries. I think all should. I also think judges should undergo formal, specialized training and review. Finally, at some point our legal professionals must assemble a group to review our “laws” and make determinations about how many can be stricken and how much case law should be eliminated. We are adept at aggregating massive amounts of legal bases for our behavior, not so good at cutting the chaff.

  2. Todd says:

    for Civil, Criminal or both?

    • Tom says:

      Both. The arguments for retaining lay juries for lower level disputes are familiar, but not convincing. Lever the best we can find and train, I say. Simple and complex matters will be resolved faster, better, cheaper.

  3. Those of us who witness the US criminal justice system in operation see a slow, costly, and unfair process. One element that could be improved without any need for Constitutional revision would be changing the selection and composition of juries. From my perspective…it seems to me that any jury should not be composed of naive laypersons….

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