When the epic Oscar Pistorius murder trial finally came to an end, a judge and two court officials decided his fate — not a jury. That’s because South Africa banned juries in 1969!
South Africa ditched juries amid fears of racial prejudice among jurors and a reluctance on the part of many people to serve. We should do the same thing in the United States.
Jurors with zero legal training in the U.S. often have to decide cases involving mind-bending issues like patent law. The trouble being that many intelligent people who could best understand those issues, try to duck jury duty because they don’t want to miss work, a planned vacation or whatever.
As a result, juries may consist of people who are least equipped to understand the issues before them. Even if a jury does have intelligent people serving on it, those people are most likely not legal experts.
Law professor Peter Van Koppen explained why this is problematic in a 2009 essay arguing that jurors often have to decide “technical issues beyond their aptitude.” In that essay published in the e-journal “Anatomy of a Jury Trial,” Van Koppen pointed out that you wouldn’t want a panel of lay people acting as doctors. So, why would you want regular people deciding the fate of defendants? The work done by a jury isn’t that different from the work of a scientist like a doctor, he wrote.
“A scientist has to make inferences about states of affairs that cannot be observed directly, inferring from evidence that can be observed. And that is precisely what a jury has to do: make a decision about the guilt of the defendant based on the evidence presented at trial,” Van Koppen wrote. “That is a scientific enterprise that surpasses the intellectual aptitude of most laypersons who are called to jury duty.”
No here’s a thought if the US wants to continue to pursue this insanity. Why not take willing and able citizens and train them to at least understand the basics! They could be placed into a pool of ‘certified jurors’ that would be picked at random and then used on a regular basis. The would be a great improvement over what some courts must settle for nowadays. The other piece of advice I would give anyone who is facing a trail would be to ask for a trail by a judge and skip the jury all together! Note: Some text used here was taken from an article published in Business Insider.