Will jurors soon need their own lawyers?

Discussion in 'Politics, Religion, Social Issues' started by emw, Apr 21, 2006.

  1. emw macrumors G4

    emw

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    This has been on the news quite a bit here in the Chicago area, but obviously has wider-ranging implications. Jurors from the recent trial of former Gov. George Ryan have been investigated by defense attorneys (after a guilty verdict was returned) for any sort of potential civil or criminal history, with the attorneys running background checks on the jurors.

    Much of this hinges on how the jurors completed a lengthy pre-trial questionnaire, for which I can't locate the exact length, but judging by what I've seen on TV, it looks to be 6-10 pages long.

    Perhaps it's just me, but the jury pool is made up of people from all walks of life - varying educational backgrounds, varied command of the English language, and obviously varied ability to interpret lengthy questionnaires like this. I'd think that if we're going to give such a wide variety of people a lengthy questionnaire subject to some interpretation, then we'd also better provide legal aides to help them clearly understand and answer the questions consistently.

    The jury system is under enough scrutiny as it is - now if jurors need to be concerned that if they are picked for a high-profile trial they will not only have to sacrifice pay, time with their families, and suffer other personal inconveniences, they will be subject to background checks and other attacks as though they were the ones on trial.

    While I can see why we'd want to make sure we have as impartial a jury as possible, those efforts should be completed before the trial, not during and after. Otherwise this could threaten the ability of the jury system to perform its intended purpose effectively.

    This is the first time I've ever heard of something like this, at least to this extent. I'm I missing something? Is this a common occurrence?
     
  2. gauchogolfer macrumors 603

    gauchogolfer

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    This is the first time that I've heard of something like this, and I can say I don't like it much at all. It really makes one want to do one's civic duty, doesn't it? I wonder if we'll see an increase in claims of unfitness by potential jurors as a result.
     
  3. zimv20 macrumors 601

    zimv20

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    in particular, i saw a news item about the head juror, who by all accounts did an excellent job. on her questionaire, she answered "no" to the question of whether she's been involved in a criminal trial.

    but the defenese attorneys are attacking her, saying that she lied because she's divorced and there were divorce hearings. naturally, she replied, "yes, but that was a civil trial, not a criminal trial." but that doesn't seem to have dissuaded ryan's attorneys.
     
  4. emw thread starter macrumors G4

    emw

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    I can understand that we don't want a "tainted" jury to influence a trial's result, but really - who isn't "tainted" or slanted to some degree, regardless of if they've been part of a trial or lawsuit or whatever? Everyone has opinions, and to expect them to be checked at the door is ridiculous. You hope you get jurors with open minds, but there simply is no way to guarantee it with a questionnaire.
     
  5. zimv20 macrumors 601

    zimv20

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    another item i saw on the news, this one last night, was that of a juror who was dismissed some time ago for sleeping during proceedings. turns out she was diabetic, something which she didn't know when the trial started.

    no big deal, right? but -- she was on camera saying she didn't the prosecution had enough evidence to get a conviction. no word yet on how the defense plans to use this. never mind that the juror wasn't there for the whole trial...
     
  6. IJ Reilly macrumors P6

    IJ Reilly

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    The attorneys for the plaintiff and the defendant aren't trying to find jurors with open minds so much as they are trying to seat jurors who will be favorably disposed to their side in the case.
     
  7. pseudobrit macrumors 68040

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    I was on the short list for a federal capital murder case (drugs, taxes, murder -- the trifecta) and the questionnaire and assorted paperwork took hours to complete and was very probing.

    I'm thinking there's a problem with it because the questions are asked by the lawyers, who naturally want to know specific information that they can leverage against you (the potential juror) and the opposition because that's their trade.
    They ask questions which are quite obviously probing your reaction to very specific aspects of the case for which you're being vetted.

    It would be wiser if the court itself had a neutral team of psychiatrists and/or psychologists write the questionnaire to weed out potential bias.
     
  8. Applespider macrumors G4

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    I've always found it fascinating that there are such major differences in how the US and UK select their jurors.

    The US fill out jury forms, the jury members are made public and can comment on the case after the trial, the defense/prosecution can oust jurors and selecting a jury can take days.

    In the UK, you can be summoned to be a juror if you are on the electoral role. You can postpone it for a year, otherwise you have to go (there are a few other get-outs but not as many as there used to be). You are on jury duty for two weeks for which the court pay you expenses and part of your salary; good employers usually make up the difference.

    When you arrive at the courthouse, they randomly call out 15 names who go to a courtroom. In the courtroom, they randomly call out 12 names who go and sit in the jurybox. The defendant comes in and the judge comes in. The jury is sworn in - if there is any objection, the defendant has to do so before the juror finishes being sworn in. He can object 3 times.

    The jurors are asked whether they know anyone involved in the case before being sworn in. That's it. No questionnaires, nothing about previous history or being questioned.
     
  9. zimv20 macrumors 601

    zimv20

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    last i checked in chicago, the court system pays $17 / day for service (far under minimum wage) and a nominal fee for travel, which was once set based on a one-way transit ticket, but doesn't keep up with transit prices.

    i have yet to hear of a company -- other than the one for which i set HR policy -- that made up the difference.
     
  10. Applespider macrumors G4

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    In the UK, you get the cost of return travel to the courtroom (you show your receipts and they refund it), you get the cost of childcare/carers allowance (if you would usually be at home on those days) or if you work, you get something like up to £55 for every full day (so long as you usually earn that). If you earn more than that, you're up the creek unless your employer tops it up. You even get £5 a day to cover lunch and coffee/tea breaks in the jurors' canteen.

    I was on jury service last year and my employers covered the shortfall in my salary. Talking to other jurors, it appeared that virtually all of those working for a large company were also being compensated.
     
  11. iGav macrumors G3

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    Balls... I'd be up the creek, not only am I a freelancer, but that £55 doesn't even cover my hourly rate, never mind a day. :(

    *crosses fingers and fums* and prays he never has to do jury service then.
     
  12. IJ Reilly macrumors P6

    IJ Reilly

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    This is quite sensible. I wonder how the U.S. system of jury selection became so intricate, given that the U.S. system is based on English Common Law. Lawyers have a certain number of "preemptory" challenges to potential jurors (a request for dismissal without a stated reason), and they can ask the judge for I believe an unlimited number of dismissals for cause.

    Juror compensation varies widely across the U.S. but for the most part it is negligible, laughably small, and few employers will make up the difference. This is why juries are overweighted in government employees and retired people. In my home county, we're paid milage but only in one direction. I guess they expect us to stay over.

    Hardship dismissals are becoming more difficult to come by. Time was, you could check "self-employed" on the jury notice and be excused automatically. No more. Now you have to ask the judge, who may or may not let you go.
     
  13. zimv20 macrumors 601

    zimv20

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    well, wouldn't you know it. today i received a jury summons.
     
  14. blackfox macrumors 65816

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    Just say you hate everyone, except criminals, whom you admire.
     
  15. pseudobrit macrumors 68040

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    Federal jury payments were something like $40-50 a day when I went, plus a separate transportation reimbursement.

    My employer at the time paid me my regular 40 hour wage and in return I cut them a check for the payments (not including the transportation money).
     
  16. aquajet macrumors 68020

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    Serves you right. ;)
     
  17. Applespider macrumors G4

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    Chuckle. I hadn't been called in 12 years of being on the electoral roll and then one night in a bar we were talking about jury service (after there being an article in a newspaper about what a waste of time it was, since you can spend days just hanging around a room waiting for a case) and within a week, three of the four of us got called.
     
  18. zelmo macrumors 603

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    Hmmmm <shifty eyes>

    Last time I got called, probably 15 years ago (in Baltimore City at the time), I got $10 for the day. no lunch or travel reimbursement. I've never heard of an employer who covered the balance. We can either use a sick day or go unpaid.
     
  19. mactastic macrumors 68040

    mactastic

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    My employer also makes up the difference between jury pay and my normal wage. Makes it a lot easier to do one's civic duty. At previous jobs I've always had to say that it would create a financial hardship to serve.
     

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