Jury of your peers

This is branching off from Bunny Justice on GQ.

Is a jury of your peers still applicable in the modern age? The interpretation people are offering on GQ is that peers means citizens which seems correct, but can any random group of citizens really be expected to offer justice to any other citizen? I.e. with there being so many different circumstances behind each individuals life is it fair that the person be judged by 12 people who may not understand the circumstances of their life. Neglect for the moment the difficulty in trying to find 12 people who would be suitable. Would we have a superior and more just system if people were truly tried by people who were more peer-like then currently?

Thoughts, opinions, mindless ramblings?


What more could you expect from somebody who lets people kick him to the head?

If I understand the jury-selection system correctly, it does just that.

Persons who have evidently prejudged the case on the basis of news reports or their personal views of an issue to be resolved are automatically excused, I believe by the judge. Both prosecutor and defense are entitled to exclude panelists for cause, which can be inability to grasp the significance of matters to be dealt with. For example, you as CEO of the Acme Corporation are being sued by Mr. Ole McDonald of EIEIO Agricultural Enterprises on the basis that his crops have been damaged by the release of a chemical from your plant into a drainage ditch which runs alongside his fields. You stipulate the chemical’s release (tests can easily prove your stipulation), but claim the chemical is neutral and should cause no harm to the crops. He claims otherwise and his attorney and yours have lined up experts. It would be entirely appropriate for both your lawyer and his to seek out jurors who have retained or currently use some knowledge of chemistry, and to exclude those who do not for cause. Couple that with your (usually three) peremptory challenges, and you get a fair group of your peers.

BTW, apropos the bunny justice question, my understanding is that “jury of your peers” refers only to their legal status as freemen and with no nobles in America and no slaves or indentured servants around since 1865 is effectively meaningless. You are entitled to a cross-section of the community, or such subset as the two parties to the case concur on, as in our chemistry example above. You may reasonably expect to see a jury which is half male and half female, give or take a person, has a racial composition roughly equivalent to the community where the panel is formed, etc. You may not have a jury of twelve Methodists or Moslems because you happen to be of that faith, twelve left-handed lesbians because you happen to be one, etc. (I do realize there is a lot of wiggle room in those two etc.'s. That is what makes lawyers rich.)

Hmnn… It seems to me that if a case comes up that involves chemistry, having actual knowledge about chemistry pretty much ensures that you’ll be rejected from the Jury.

There is no way that you could excuse a prospective juror for cause because they didn’t have a background in chemistry in the hypothetical given. That is what makes such cases so hard to prove - you spend endless dollars (and time!) having experts educate the jurors about the issues at hand.

On the other hand, knowledge of chemistry would not get you excused for cause, either. It MIGHT get you excused peremptorily if either party thought you were not impartial with your ‘knowledge.’

Actually, depending on the judge, you might get excused “for cause” if your knowledge was specific enough to the facts of the case, or if you worked for a competitor of the defendant, or even if a good attorney caught a mediocre judge on a bad day.

FWIIW, many plaintiff’s attorneys, especially in class action suits like the case that Polycarp’s example would surely become, “shop” for jurisdictions in which jurors are least likely to have any knowledge of anything whatsoever. There is a district in southern Texas that is particularly good territory for this. The juror pool is comprised mostly of recent immigrants who come here with no money, little literacy, a distrust of “bigness,” and a reputation for handing out big punitive damage claims.

A federal judge recently wrote a brilliantly funny (if you like this sort of thing) remanding to Washington a suit brought by a South American country against the tobacco industry. If I can find it, I’ll post it.


Livin’ on Tums, Vitamin E and Rogaine