Reforming the Court System

Not taking a stance on the OP one way or another but this bit is bogus.

The evidence is people are actually very poor at detecting a lie. Sure, everybody likes to think they can spot the liar when they see one but studies suggest this is not true. In fact, it is not even true for trained interrogators who studies have shown manage to correctly catch the lie about as reliably as a coin flip.

I sometimes wonder if a jury system still makes sense. Attorneys specifically select jurors who they think will bias to their side, issues at hand can be very complex and often beyond the grasp of your Average Joe (not that they are stupid but we cannot all be experts in everything) and attorneys can use rhetorical tricks to sway the jury. Are super successful, highly paid attorneys better because they know law the other side does not or they are more persuasive (or they are just good at picking winning cases)?

If you want to change something, have the courts change their attitudes toward publicity and decide that the defendant’s right to a fair trial outweighs the right of the press to publicly display pictures of the defendant and all the facts and wild-ass guesses that they can, all the while being careful to say “allegedly”.

Once a verdict is reached, they can report on the case to their heart’s content.

I think the OP was saying that, in this new system, the prosecutor could still argue that the the crime was racially motivated…he’d still have to prove that. He just couldn’t mention the actual race of either the victim or the defendant.

I don’t know how one would do that, but that’s what he’s arguing.

This seems to be a solution in search of a problem. Most trials can handle “fierce accusations of bias, racism, and etc.” Not sure it mars the results. O.J.'s verdict can be explained by other factors, such as a prosecutor not knowing how to put on a lean and compelling case

As others have stated, the suggestions in the OP would be unworkable. (I"ll add “unwise”)

I feel about the First Amendment the way some people feel about the Second Amendement: I’m pretty much an absolutist. But I agree that the reporting of active court cases is one of its worst manifestations - especially now that lawyers are actively spinning their side of the case.

My suggestion for trial reform: let the jurors get involved. I think they should have the right to ask questions of the witnesses if they choose. Lawyers now control the questioning and they often work on crafting questions that conceal the facts rather than reveal them.

I’d also require defendants to testify and be questioned. Fifth Amendment protection would be changed from a right to not testify to a full protection from perjury charges.

I’d to see a law passed that before anyone can make a suggestion about how to reform the court system, they have to sit through at least one actual trial, and not rely solely on what they see in movies or on TV.

Congradulations you just made the defendent’s testimony completely worthless. Why should anyone believe someone who’s not sworn, obliged to testify, and has nothing to risk by lying and everything to gain from it?

I agree with Clothahump’s idea of restricting publicity of trials in progress. That seems to be the norm in other common-law countries (England, Canada, Australia, etc).

I have often thought, instead of having the jury in the court room, why not have the trial without the jury, then tape it. That way the judge can go an edit out all the stuff that the lawyers try to sneak it.

Like when a judge says “Jury will disregard that last remark” they actually do this.

There have been several good arguments for making use of professional juries but people won’t go for that.

Also forgotten is nationwide about 90% of criminal cases never see a jury. The case is plea bargained. In some areas it’s as high as 95% of criminal cases are plea bargained.

Part of the problem is we’re told a trial is to seek the truth. NO a trial is to convict the accused. Perry Mason always gets his clients off by finding the real killer or criminal.

But a trial isn’t to seek out the truth of the case. It is to determain whether that particular person is guilty or not.

This sounds OK till you realize other things like egos of DA’s, the cost of the trials, the availability of witnesses all work against this.

Interestingly enough true crime writer Harold Schechter said when he writes books he never pays for information, but he explains now people expect and demand payment for information. He says twice, he paid for information, got it, turned it over to the cops and it lead to people being cleared.

Once again we see a system where people aren’t going to come forward for “goodness” sake and expect to be paid.

The thing is neither of those people Schechter was ever interviewed by the police but they should’ve been.

You see a trial is not about truth it’s about is the person on trail guilty or not.

Last thing is we also have it drilled into our head juries are 12 people who are impartial.

A jury isn’t 12 people who haven’t an opinion. What you have are 12 people who have an opinion and have made up their mind about something, BUT are willing to change it if someone can convince them.

The biggest change I’d like to see is to seat the first 12 people who come in the door as the jury. No peremptory challenges, dismiss only for cause, and it better damned well be a really,really good cause (like sleeping with the defendant). Also, require everyone to serve.

Unfortunately that would give whichever side is better at getting people up and to the courthouse faster the chance to pack the jury. A random draw is better.

Are you one of those people who believes that if you’re accused of a crime you must be guilty? A lot of defendants are innocent so they can testify before the court and tell the truth with no problem. The lawyers, the judge, and the jurors could all ask them questions and they could answer them with no problem.

It’s a guilty defendant who’s going to have problems. Yes, obviously he’s going to try to lie. But he’s got to keep his lies straight and not stumble over his story.

Just to clarify for Canada at least, restricting publicity is not the norm. It is the exception, and the vast majority of Canadian trials are freely open to the public and media. Newsworthy trials are covered by the media, and reported on daily. But every now and then, there is a concern that the media coverage will result in the accused not getting a fair trial somehow, and a publication ban is put in place by the judge handling the trial. Even then, the Court proceedings are still open to the public–they just cannot be reported in the media.

Well, they can do that now. A defendant can always choose to testify on his own behalf.

Yes, but only at the risk of perjury. And my other point is that trials are still stage managed by the lawyers. Jurors have about as much role in the trial as audience members at a play. I’d like to see the jury’s role become more interactive, which would include the ability to question the defendant and other witneses directly.

What do you do with a defendant who answers his lawyer’s questions but just sits quietly when the prosecutor asks his? Charge him with contempt? Lock him up until he answers? Instruct the jury to disregard the answers he DID give?

Why are peremptory challenges a bad thing? And why are the current reasons for challenges for cause bad?

I propose for convictions that don’t impose the death penalty only a simple 3/4 majority of the jury vote guilty for the defendant to be found guilty and sentenced.

You misunderstand. I mean the first twelve *from the jury pool *who walk through the door.

My objection to peremptory challenges is that they are used by the prosecuting and defense attorneys to stack the jury with people they believe, rightly or wrongly, to be sympathetic to their side. The resulting jury is generally not representative of the public at large, being significantly less educated, less informed, and more likely to be swayed by emotion.

Even if the jury is in fact well-educated, etc., a jury composed of people that are believed to be sympathetic to one side or the other is the very antithesis of justice.

Everyone testifies at the risk of perjury. That creates an incentive to tell the truth. Why should a criminal defendant be treated differently? Protection against self-incrimination is one of the most basic principles of our legal system. It most certainly should not be abolished.