Jury System

The jury system has been used for thousands of years to fairly determine innocence or guilt in a trial. Although not utilized as much as in the past it is still used for most criminal and some civil cases. This leads to an unjust legal system full of bias. The jury system was first seen in use by the ancient Greeks thousands of years ago[1]. Though the system was the fairest way to produce a verdict, it cannot apply today because society has endured a change which taints the foundation of a fair trial by jury. Juries are much more open to tampering by interested parties through which can be undetected by the authorities. Jurors can hold bias and prejudice against a defendant based on a variety of factors. To offset this there are many alternatives to replace the dated system to produce more just verdicts.

The jury system was developed by the ancient Greeks thousands of years ago. They called this system the “dikastaí” this system involved the selection of up to 500 citizens for normal cases. For capital cases the number of citizens enlisted ranged from 1001-1501[2]. This basic idea of a jury system is still used in the modern legal system. Eligible citizens are enlisted, screened for bias and then sit in court hearing presentations from both the defense and the prosecution to prove their cases. After the proceedings have concluded the jury votes on a decision[3]. The Ancient Romans also used an interpretation of this system, they used civilian judges instead of government officials to eliminate any conflict of interest[4]. Though these were crucial steps in the path to fair trials and verdicts it is still a flawed system in the modern world.

A jury can be tampered by interested parties and this can happen quite frequently. The jurors are members of general society and can be easily swayed by financial or extortionist methods to change their vote and try to change other juror’s votes. The jurors do not stay in the courthouse for the entire trial and can be influenced in their own time. This great window for a juror’s vote to be tainted is too large to ignore. In a particular case in Calgary a psychiatrist who was charged with sexually assaulting 5 of his patients and 2 counts of fraud, his wife tried to offer a juror one thousand dollars for a not-guilty verdict on a subway platform. The courts only knew of this because the juror informed them[5]. If someone wanted to buy a vote through a juror they could easily approach one outside of the court and the juror can be easily swayed by a nominal sum of money often not noticeable by any financial regulatory agency of member of the court.

Potential jurors are often very biased and have prejudice against a defendant based on outward characteristics such as race or socio-economic condition. Either the crown or the defense can know a potential juror’s beliefs or values based on what they say. Jurors can also hold a subconscious bias towards certain characteristics which they are not aware of which can invalidate a verdict. Jurors are not trained to be impartial towards a trial and can often deviate from the evidence and testimony which is what the decision should be based on. Even in the modern world prejudice and stereotyping based on race, sexual orientation, gender and age is prevalent among a majority of the population. Although society for the most part has tried to rid themselves of these stereotypes they are still reinforced through pop culture. This can taint a juror’s judgement in voting.

Many criminal and civil cases involve complex evidence and testimony which has to be put in layman’s terms. This can alter the impact of evidence or testimony and the juror cannot make an informed decision. The jury is not familiar with the law which can lead to confusion about different legal terms, what evidence is considered circumstantial and how to exclude that from their decision after seeing it in court. A jury comprised of the general public are also much more open to being influenced by how a lawyer presents their case and not by evidence. Since the jury does not have any knowledge of forensics they can be influenced by expert witnesses put on the stand by both the defense and the prosecution which are completely contradictory.

The jury system has been used for thousands of years however, there are more logical and economical methods to judge innocence or guilt fairly. While the jury system is not only taxing on the government’s resources it is also very difficult for the juror’s. A juror in Canada is not compensated for trials under 10 days, if a trial runs from 11-49 days they get forty dollars a day, after 49 days the juror’s receive one-hundred dollars per day[6]. To put a working citizen in the position of losing up to ten days pay to serve in jury duty is very difficult. Being put into jury duty potentially carries other costs such as childcare and transportation which is not covered by the government.

The jury system has been in use for thousands of years and has produced many fair verdicts. This system in the modern world is not as effective because there are too many opportunities for the the juror’s decisions to be tainted. The jury system is not the most effective because like any member of the general public they have different values and opinions which they can not disconnect from when making a decision. The jury system is not the fairest method of determining innocence or guilt.