Do we need to refrom the jury selection process?
I am confident in the belief that our American judicial system is one of the best in the world. When I say “American judicial system” I am referring to the overall process of having a trial with legal representation for both sides and allowing a jury of one’s peers to decide guilt or innocence of the charges levied.
What I believe we need reform on is the selection process. Currently in our courts when a defendant is charged and their day in court is set, lawyers move into a mode of psychological & sociological evaluation not of the defendant but of potential jurors. The accurate term is Scientific Jury Selection (SJS).
During this phase experts in law and psychology are often deployed to determine which potential jurors will be most favorable to either the defense or prosecution. Boutique law firms have sprung up since the 70’s, when this practice first began that specialize in jury selection.
I believe that SJS taints the 12 man jury system that up to this point has worked fairly well for our country, despite recent cases where public sentiment has run contrary to jurors decisions.
Perhaps we need to introduce some reforms to the jury selection process in order to protect our judicial system. Here are a couple of reforms we may need and why.
1. Juror Competency: We all would like to think that the best and brightest among our peers would be in the jury box if we ever had cause to be judged by our peers in court. This unfortunately is not always the case. We ensure that defendants are competent to stand trial; why do we not ensure that jurors are competent enough to fully weigh the details of a case and truly make an informed judgment about the defendants actions?
2. Elimination of Peremptory Challenges: This process more often than not results in undermining the balanced representation on a jury which could occur if random selection was used. Of course there would still be a need for a challenge process which could be used in a limited capacity to eliminate potential jurors that have an obvious bias that could infringe upon the rights of the defendant to a fair trial. An example would be not having a rape victim be on a jury of a person charged with rape. These however should be far a few in between and have specific defined parameters.
Our current system in most states allow for unlimited peremptory challenges for no apparent reason other than ‘experts’ have determined that they will most likely not come back with a favorable decision for their client.
3. Third Party Jury Selection: Neither the prosecution nor the defense should have a say so in who is selected to be on a jury in a case they will argue. A third party entity charged with jury selection and ensuring that there is no obvious bias would be a workable solution. They could also potentially be responsible for ensuring that the jurors are competent to serve on the jury they are selected for. A third party jury selection process brings back the much needed neutrality our judicial system has been lacking.
What do you think……. Do we need Jury Reform?
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