Reasoning for the Need to Abolish the Jury System
Are you guilty of making judgments of off initial appearance? Maybe it’s an unconscious bias, but this discrimination in a court case can cause the defendants an undeserved sentence or in some cases death! 4% of death row inmates are likely innocent and over 1,500 people have died being wrongfully executed. Systemic Racism and Implicit Bias is one of the main causes of wrongful convictions in court, and mainly come from the uneducated members of the jury. The extremely high risk of jury tampering consisting of threats, bribery and intimidation can also advance to a later miscarriage of justice. It is undoubtedly comprehensible that bias jurors make decisions based on their views of the race, gender or religion of the defendant, usually resulting in a damaging aftermath when the views are passed through onto the final say by the judge, who considers what is said by the jury when making the life changing decision of another. Jurors can convict someone based on their discriminative judgment, not the facts and evidence involved in the case or provided by a lawyer. Curtis Flower’s case was found to be racially biased as Attorney Doug Evans removed as many African-American jurors as he could which resulted in evidence of racially motivated decisions, he was later sentenced to death. Curtis Flowers was deprived of a fair and equal trial. The same prejudice conviction took place in 1987 to a man called Timothy Foster, this led to an impotent trial. Researchers at Michigan State University discovered that African American prisoners who were sentenced for murder are about 50% more likely to be innocent than other convicted murderers and spend longer in prison before exoneration. The Supreme Court denounce the ‘recurring evil’ of racial bias in the U.S. criminal justice system, in the case of a Hispanic man convicted of sex charges that a juror’s racist comments during deliberations. The Mexican man convicted was called Miguel Pena Rodriguez and a member of the jury aimed racist and bigotry comments including “he did it because he’s Mexican, and Mexican men take whatever they want”.
I know for a fact that inequality and racism happen to this day by the jury and by abolishing the jury system innocent people will be spared of intolerance and given freedom and a voice. An appalling outcome of bias jurors is wrongful convictions. “Research shows that when jurors are asked to recall facts, they are inclined to misremember information in racially biased ways”. Unquestionably this shows racism plays a part in decision making of jurors, resulting in false convictions. Discriminative jurors are common, therefore mass amounts of innocent citizens are prejudicially convicted guilty. National statistics of wrongful convictions show 49% of people wrongfully convicted were black. Donald Marshall Jr a man from Nova Scotia, was wrongly convicted of murdering a friend by an all-white jury. When he was released 11 years later, his wrongful conviction cited systemic racism as the root cause of his conviction.
Imagine if you stood in court, innocent, and was teared apart by hateful opinions and unequal treatment solely based on your physical appearance. If someone discovers the jury of a certain trial they might bribe or threaten them to attempt to influence the jury to make decisions that are not based on evidence given in court during a trial, this is called jury tampering. Typical examples of Jury tampering consist of bribing or threatening a juror to decide a case a certain way, however there are more subtle techniques by leaving jurors anonymous notes or photographs and telling them information that was not presented in court. There have been complaints during high profile cases, for instance when two jurors in the case of Tony Martin complained of intimidation by Tony’s friends, during the trial. Although jury tampering is a felony and can result in perpetrators receiving up to 20 years max in prison, plenty to this day don’t refrain from manipulating or intimidating jurors, consequently forming an unfair trial and misconduct of justice.
We all agree that the only people in charge of making decisions in court should be well educated, however studies have found that not all jurors understand law and find it difficult to understand a judge’s legal directions. To ensure a fair trial, juror’s need to understand directions to avoid miscarriage of justice. The only way to ensure the case is fair is to have an educated panel of judges deciding convictions based on evidence presented in court by legal professionals. 71% of jurors don’t understand the directions, this could be due to the fact people who turn up to jury duty are unemployed and therefore lack qualifications and education. Overall, those who turn up are last qualified to serve as jurors, most trials contain complex evidence and documents which makes it near impossible for juries to decide if the defendant is guilty, this is exactly where all goes wrong. One case that has been found difficult to understand is fraud as analysis of documents are exceptionally difficult to understand. Not using evidence provided in court will guarantee inequity.
Should we follow in the footsteps of other countries? Absolutely! South Africa’s courts have a reputation of being professional and independent. By abolishing the jury system, they can give well-considered judgements without fear. “Unlike jurors, judges will not easily be swayed by gossip or even by serious and credible allegations about an accused in a criminal case published in the media” – Constitutional lawyer, Pierre de Vos. The lawyer states he would not trust jury in South Africa due to bias and racism. South African Olympic star Oscar Pistorius murder case had no jury. Singapore, Pakistan, India, Malaysia and Indonesia are other examples of countries with no jury system, instead they rely on educated panel of judges and legal workers when convicting. The USA has been the subject of most wrongful convictions research than any other country in the world, Japan and some Western European countries such as Germany also have high rates of wrongful convictions compared to countries with jury system abolished.
As previously mentioned, judges are very unlikely to be swayed by gossip and media, however for jurors this is not the case. The impact of the media in this day and age is massive, so when cases go viral everyone has a say and opinions published all over social media. The Media’s depictions of lawyers, judges, defendants, and witnesses might influence and sway the decisions of the jurors and their expectations about these people furthers to miscarriage of justice. The effect of the media influenced the jury in HealthSouth CEO Richard Scrushy’s case. Multi-Millionaire Richard Scrushy was one of the most abhorred people in the media during his case in 2005. As a fight against negative media opinions he started a religious talk show to give a portrayal of a relatable guy, as most of those in the area were religious. He made lots of generous donations and eventually reinvented himself as kind-hearted to draw away negative attention and make ‘an effort to soften the jury pool’. This demonstrates an online war to win the respect of a 12-person jury pool, and due to his media success Richard was found not guilty.
Overall, what have we discovered about the jury trial? We have discovered the severe damage jurors are capable of due to their bias views. By abolishing the jury system, we could prevent locking innocent people up and restricting them from their families, freedom and liberty. We have also learned that countries without jury have fewer miscarriage of justice cases, and countries like USA, who widely use juries have the highest wrongful convictions.
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