The American Jury

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The following is a blog written by our office manager, Warren Fabro.  I wholeheartedly agree with him.

Broadcast television has always been full of dramatic pieces on the legal system.  With the many channels now available to the public, it is hard not to notice the wealth of shows covering legal proceedings.  Based on the number of shows covering legal proceedings from criminal trials to trials involving popular sports figures, it would seem that the public has an insatiable appetite for legal drama.  We are inundated with coverage of trials on news shows, news networks, and talk shows every day and it seems that there is no shortage of legal experts and pundits.  While watching the backlash of the recent Casey Anthony verdict, I couldn’t help but notice the strong negative reaction to the Jury which rendered the eventual verdict. 

A few years ago, I had the honor of serving on a Jury in the United States District Court for the District of Hawaii during criminal trial.  I remember sitting in the Jury pool going through the rounds of questioning by the prosecution and defense attorneys all the while thinking that, based on my legal background in trial work, I had little chance of being chosen.  However, to my surprise, I made the cut at every round of questioning and eventually was chosen as a juror (and at the end of trial, the Jury foreman).  At first I was reluctant to serve as a juror as I knew that it would consume an enormous amount of time and would cause me to miss work.  Looking at the situation in a different light, I realized that this could be a great experience for me to see a trial through the eyes of a juror.  Indeed, it turned out to be truly memorable experience.  I have been involved in numerous trials as a trial paralegal and it was refreshing to obtain a viewpoint from the other side of the fence.  It gave me a new perspective and appreciation of the American judicial system.  I came away with a new found respect for Juries and the American justice system. 

The general public may criticize and even lambast a Jury if a verdict reached does not agree with ones own opinion of what a verdict should be.  However, based on my experience serving as a Jury foreman, I was reminded that a Jury can only view the evidence presented to them at the time of trial and after that evidence is presented during the trial, the Jury must follow the specific instructions of the Court to render a verdict.  Indeed, after we (the Jury) delivered our verdict in that trial, I learned of information about the defendant and circumstances about the case that was never revealed to the Jury as I assumed the trial attorneys had filed the appropriate motions to disallow the entering of this evidence into trial.  Although I felt that this information would probably not have changed the verdict, it reminded me that as a Jury we were limited to the evidence entered into the record during the trial for our review and consideration in formulating the verdict.

It is quite easy to pass judgment on a Jury’s verdict but one must remember the limitations put upon the Jury insofar as the evidence actually entered into the record during trial as well the Court’s specific instructions given at the close of the presentation of evidence and closing arguments by the attorneys.  Our American justice system, while not perfect, is the finest in the world and allows the general public to participate and, to a certain extent, play a part in shaping laws that govern our great country.  While the media seems to focus on trials in America, one should remember that justice systems in many other countries in the world do not offer its citizens the same rights and freedoms afforded to the American public.