Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Question – On The Public Jury

There have been two court decisions in recent weeks that have been debated in the Court of Public Opinion. The first was the ‘Corby Verdict’, the second the ‘Jackson Verdict’. The announcement of the verdicts, guilty and innocent respectively, has turned every man and his dog into a ‘juror’, espousing verdicts of their own.

The question that needs to be discussed, especially in this age of the incredibly democratic ‘vox pop’, is whether anyone who has not been privy to the court proceedings and the deliberations of the jurors is actually in a position to comment on any court decision at all?

[It is requested, by The Editor, that contributors and commentators abstain from posting their own verdicts and concentrate on the issue of whether they are actually in a position to make such claims in the first instance.]


Rosie said...

While I agree that people get a bit carried away with making their own verdicts, it is not practical or possible for everyone to have all the information and details of trial proceedings. It is far better for people to at least think about the issues, and have their own opinions, but only if they take into account they are not definatively right because they do not have all the info, that to lay down and accept they don't know anything about it and therefore have nothing to say on the matter.
That't what I think.

MH said...

I want to commence by making a distinction between ‘judicial issues’ and verdicts. A ‘judicial issue’ – to coin a phrase – are those issues, such as sentencing, and whether act x should be a crime, that are related to judicial procedures. A verdict, on the other hand, is the ruling made by the jury, or judges in the case of the Inquistorial system, regarding the guilt or innocence of an individual (or organisation).

Ms Rosie has it right, I think, when she writes that the public should be aware of and have an opinion regarding issues. I don’t think that the judicial system, as it is, would work without all members of society having an opinion regarding how long murderers should be sentenced, and whether presently illicit drugs should remain illicit. I would stipulate that these opinions should informed and considered opinions.

On the other hand, I don’t think that individuals should have an opinion regarding verdicts. I think that those who have not been privy to the proceedings and deliberations are in no position to make comments on the verdict, and I think that it is actually worse for the legal system for uninformed members of the public to question jury verdicts.

Pete said...

I'm curious Martin as to what advantages are to be had from making your prescribed distinction? Although this type of distinction does make very clear sense analytically I'm wondering if it stands up to judicial issues/verdicts in practice?

Anyway Rosie I find your comment to be reminiscent of Machiavelli who hoped that one day everyone would engage in constructive discussion about affairs of state. True, at the time he was more concerned with politics rather than law, but I think your basic sentiment is pretty much the same. It's better to be surrounded by people who at least have some sort of idea rather than none. I have to agree (most of the time), and as long as we maintain some sort of humility to keep us from getting too carried away by our ill-informed convictions then we all should engage in absobing as much data about our society as we can and exercising our intellect about these issues (although sometimes I wonder...).