The Good. The Bad. The Asinine.

I am Angry Face

“I think he just got carried away and did the wrong thing.”

Juror B37

“Not guilty”

Juror B37

I have nothing to say about the rights and wrongs of the Trayvon Martin case. If the yanks are happy with a big, fat, wannabe cop randomly shooting inappropriately dressed people in the street, that’s their business, though I strongly suspect many of them are not.

I do, however, have a great deal to say about the juror B37. I won’t inflict all of it on you, just the executive summary.

Executive Summary of my Opinion of Juror B37:

  • She’s a fucking moron.

Unfortunately, she is also a fair sample of juries all over the Western world. People who are clever enough to understand the law are often also clever enough to get out of jury duty. There is a small number of intelligent, high-minded people who relish the prospect of doing their civic duty but, statistically, they are what can be described as a negligible quantity. The majority of jurors are of average intellect or below. As a person who is involved in adult education, I know what this really means. It’s horrifying.

An ex-girlfriend of mine once served on a jury in Britain. She talked to me about the experience, saying that she had argued very hard in favour of finding the defendant guilty. This had been in spite of the fact that the evidence in the police case was not so much inconclusive as lacking entirely. So what had convinced her that the man in question had been guilty of this particular crime? Well, the Police Prosecutor had accidentally on purpose let slip the fact that this young man had stolen cars in the past. The jurors had been told to disregard this but, apparently, the concept that the man was only on trial for the offence in question proved far too subtle for this particular middle class professional female.

The comedian James O’Loughlin once delivered this quite sound advice to me, in his guise as a Legal Aid lawyer, when I was contemplating a Not Guilty plea for a youthful indiscretion:

“Juries are generally full of people who like Pauline Hanson because she ‘talks straight and tells it like it is’. I doubt that a jury trial would be your best bet.”

Now, we may not care whether criminals deserve better than to be judged by a committee of subhuman idiots, but we should care about justice. Justice deserves better. In fact, justice cannot possibly be served by halfwits, illiterates and the unemployed, applying their prejudices and glacial, A Current Affair trained logical processes to evidence, half of which they did not understand and the rest of which they slept through.

We live in a society that has very rightly abrogated direct participation in government to elected representatives. And why is this? Because government is a complex and highly involved business. Look at any local council and you’ll see that amateurs attempting to use their ‘common sense’ in the application of government are not exactly the last word in effectiveness and intelligent action. Most people are incapable of costing multi-billion dollar projects, conceptualising and drafting legislation, forming and enacting policy or balancing the competing interests of powerfully backed and boderline extremist interest groups. What we are all perfectly capable of, however, is complaining endlessly about the process of government and casting an ill-considered vote every few years. Happily, the system reflects this.

But what about the legal system? How many of us understand the rules of evidence, their application in the pursuit of justice, the deep principles of legal theory, opinion and assumption? How many of us are able to weigh and sift evidence, reach logical conclusions or separate emotion from the opinions and impressions that we form? I’m not exaggerating when I say that many of my students, far from being able to do all these things, actually struggle to divide round numbers by ten. And yet, these people – these solid citizens of average intelligence – are an ideal jury pool. Prosecutors love them because they will probably do whatever the judge tells them, Defence Counsels love them because they believe pretty much everything they’re told by a man in a suit (or a wig, as the case may be) – the only people who really have cause to fear them are the defendants, whose futures hang on the tortuous mental processes of twelve people they have never met, and who already think of them as ‘The Accused’.

Unlike our political system, the legal system does not reflect the capability or suitability of the average citizen for direct participation. As a result, trial by jury – which I understand is a central pillar of democratic justice – is a hollow mockery of itself.

I had suspected this well before B37 gave her interview. After she had opened her stupid fucking mouth, however, it was confirmed.

Category: Asinine


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