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Should we abolish the jury?

  • 21-05-2022 6:33pm
    Registered Users Posts: 60 ✭✭

    Would you be in favour of it?

    Are juries compulsory in common law jurisdictions? Is there any common law jurisdiction without them? What would it involve to abolish them?

    Are there any civil law jurisdictions with juries? I know Germany uses “lay judges” in a panel similar to our juries.

    I’m not convinced juries are good. They’re not legally trained (well, some of the randomly selected people may have law degrees) and could be prone to ruling with their heart rather than their head, they could be prone to subconscious bias, for example against travellers or if a man is on trial for an alleged sexual offence (even if the woman is lying) the jury could believe her over the man.

    Even though a judge in her or his expert legal opinion could think the defendant is guilty, if the jury thinks otherwise, then the judges hands are tied and the defendant is found not guilty, likewise if the judge is 100% convinced of the defendant’s innocence, he or she must pass a sentence if the jury returns a guilty verdict.

    Why can’t our courts operate with a single judge for summary matters and a panel of judges for serious matters, rape, murder..


  • Registered Users Posts: 60 ✭✭busy bee 33

    Also who decides if a majority verdict is required or a unanimous?

    If this is at a judges whim with no strict black and white guidelines, is it not open to abuse or goalpost shifting ?

  • Registered Users Posts: 1,453 ✭✭✭sam t smith

    I hope you don’t get abolished.

  • Registered Users Posts: 10,170 ✭✭✭✭Jim_Hodge

    I don't know why I'm evening my wit to you, as I feel you know rightly:

    Juries help to eliminate the issue of bias within the justice system.

    The process of voir dire helps to create an impartial jury.

    Lay person participation in the legal system is considered central to a healthy democracy. Lawyers play a major role in making the laws in parliament. Judges then apply the laws. If juries weren’t used, lawyers would have a monopoly over the law.

    Juries check the abuses of government power by judges.

    Juries help the criminal justice system reflect the values and standards of the general public.

  • Registered Users Posts: 60 ✭✭busy bee 33

    How is this “abuse” prevented in civil law jurisdictions?

  • Registered Users Posts: 6,091 ✭✭✭Claw Hammer

    Juries try questions of fact, not law. legal training does not assis in making findings of fact. In some ways it can be a hindrance.

    Panels of judges are going to be composed of judges who, in common law jurisdictions are former lawyers. Members of such panels have a lot in common in terms of their educational experience and their life experiences. Members of a jury are asked to decide whether they believe a proposition to be true or otherwise by reference to their own experience. The chances are much higher that 12 people chosen at random will have a much greater range of life experience than a panel chosen from a very small group who are from the same socio economic level, and likely to have a similar educational background and be middle-aged.

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  • Moderators, Society & Culture Moderators Posts: 9,625 Mod ✭✭✭✭Manach

    From a historical perspective, juries that originate from the general populace (as opposed to the legal system such as the diplock courts or star chambres) are a check to the state's power in both checking unjust laws as well as ensuring that the burden of proof (civil or criminal) is adequately meet to a communities standards.

  • Registered Users Posts: 2,991 ✭✭✭...Ghost...

    Our system is a little outdated. Jurors should be screened and asked a series of case relevant questions before being accepted as part of the panel. Falsification of answers should carry a punishment. To use your sexual assault example, I think any potential juror who has either been a victim of, a past complainant of, or has a close relative/partner who suffered such an abuse should be excluded from the jury panel due to the high likelihood of emotional bias. I know I would be bias if I was a victim, or my OH was a victim, so despite my intention to be objective, I don't believe I would be in those circumstances.

    Free Palestine from Hamas

  • Registered Users Posts: 78,195 ✭✭✭✭Victor

    Removing jurors would mean other balances would need to be introduced.

    "think any potential juror who has either been a victim of, a past complainant of, or has a close relative/partner who suffered such an abuse should be excluded from the jury panel due to the high likelihood of emotional bias." - congratulations, you have excluded almost the whole population.

  • Registered Users Posts: 1,100 ✭✭✭manonboard

    Just to argue the opposite. Isn't the idea of allowing the jurors life experiences guide them a central part of the very qualities we want to have in a juror?

    They need life experience in order to judge whether something was likely done or not done, to emotionally be aware of the relevant conditions, and the motivations for the acts?

    I think you definitely have a point about people who have been victims of a crime not being chosen, but i think being close to those victims is a step to far. If i am correct, dont we also screen jurors with such questions before they are selected? Each side gets to ask questions and dismiss jurors?

  • Moderators, Category Moderators, Arts Moderators, Sports Moderators Posts: 47,870 CMod ✭✭✭✭magicbastarder

    none of my german colleagues have ever been called for jury service IIRC; i think jury trials are rare in germany.

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  • Registered Users Posts: 60 ✭✭busy bee 33

    That’s what I was saying. “Jurors” are actually a panel of lay judges.

  • Moderators, Business & Finance Moderators Posts: 9,819 Mod ✭✭✭✭Jim2007

  • Registered Users Posts: 2,991 ✭✭✭...Ghost...

    Valid point, but in some types of trials, it would be detrimental to the defendant if jurors with emotional bias were to be part of the panel making judgement which could land an innocent person behind bars for a long time, or even a short time.

    Regarding the closeness to victims I would ask you this; If your partner had been mugged and sexually assaulted by an ethnic minority and you found yourself on a panel deliberating on a case against a person of the same ethnicity for robbery and sexual assault, how would your emotional state be? Could you be completely impartial, or might the similar circumstances your partner (and by extension, you) experienced taint your view?

    I consider myself a reasonable and just person, but even I would not be foolish enough to think I would be impartial in such circumstances as I would unintentionally draw negative emotions from my experience which would bias me unfairly against the defendant. Perhaps others could detach themselves wholly under similar circumstances.

    Free Palestine from Hamas

  • Registered Users Posts: 6,091 ✭✭✭Claw Hammer

    The jury system is a much better balance against innocent people ending up behind bars than panels of judges sitting and deciding questions of fact and law. Jurors are supposed to disclose any factors which would render it difficult for them to properly decide the issues. A rape victim could sit on a jury in a fraud case or a fraud victim could sit on a rape trial. Juries are supposed to be randomly selected and the chances of more than one or two juries being victims is low and the likelihood of them influencing the other 10 or 11 members of the jury is quite low.

  • Registered Users Posts: 2,991 ✭✭✭...Ghost...

    I agree the jury system is a better one than judges on a panel, or acting alone. However, even a single biased juror is too many when someone is facing jail time. 1 or 2 biased jurors could be enough influence to send an innocent person to prison. I would like to see jurors who fail declare possible conflicts of interest facing appropriate consequences if such things are not disclosed at the time of selection and questioning. At the very least, a mistrial would be called as the juror would have likely had some influence on the other jurors. The costs financially wouldn't be small either for defendants paying their own costs.

    Free Palestine from Hamas

  • Registered Users Posts: 6,091 ✭✭✭Claw Hammer

    there are 12 members of a jury. A majority verdict is only allowed after all 12 fail to agree. Even then 10 are needed to convict. It would be very unlikely that one or two biased jurors could persuade all but tw others of guilt is the others had a reasonable doubt.

  • Registered Users Posts: 1,134 ✭✭✭jimwallace197

    I wouldn't be so sure of that, there's be a number of instances recently of one or two jury members dictating the order of things in Jury meetings. One recent high profile case in the CCJ which was a historic sexual abuse allegation as far as I can remember had allegations of bullying among the members. From what I've heard & read, often you'll have a number of Jury members that arent overly bothered by the outcome, just want to get home as soon as possible, a number of them that no matter what the defense do, would be on the side of the gards, willing to convict and a number of them would take all factors into consideration. Now, if someone has been the victim or known someone closely that was of a particular crime, there's a high probability that they'll be motivated enough to influence other jury members towards a decision unless they're a shrinking violet of course.

    I would agree with Ghost that this part of disclosure when juries are being selected is vital & there should be consequences if someone hasn't be up front or truthful. There's too much at stake

  • Administrators, Entertainment Moderators, Social & Fun Moderators, Society & Culture Moderators Posts: 18,689 Admin ✭✭✭✭✭hullaballoo

    I agree completely with this - like any group of 12 people there will be influential personalities as well as those happy to go with whatever if it means they get home early. I'd say in most jury trials, the verdict more often than not reflects the position taken by the most influential personalities.

    Influential people of course are a diverse group and some will use gentle or indirect persuasion while others will shout everyone else down.

  • Registered Users Posts: 5,368 ✭✭✭JimmyVik

    I was on a jury once. It really shook any faith i might have had in the jury system right out of me.

    A group of 3 people had the person convicted on sight. There was no changing their mind at all all through the whole thing.

    And they would gang up on the weaker members of the jury too. They were very intimidation altogether.

    Another person joined up with them on day 2 so they wouldnt be bullied anymore.

    And the reasons they had for their opinions on the accused were shocking. Lets just say they were not evidence based in the least.

  • Registered Users Posts: 1,134 ✭✭✭jimwallace197

    What were some of the things that made the accused guilty on sight in your opinion? and did the end result end up going their way, did the influence everyone enough for that to become the majority decision?

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  • Registered Users Posts: 2,991 ✭✭✭...Ghost...

    You are underestimating how even a single person can influence and persuade a group. One person can do it by planting suggestions early on and letting them sit while backing up their earlier suggestions by cherry picking points made in court. Or as suggested, they can just be the bigger personality and use that to persuade, or even bully others to join their train. 1 can quickly become 6,7, or 8 and then it's just a matter of time before the rest fall in line.

    The influential member(s) might just be closed minded, or they might just have their own agenda. We should do our best to bring about the truth and have unbiased juries insofar as is possible. Right now, the method of selecting and approving jury members is flawed and should be changed. It might then just keep another innocent person from incarceration.

    Free Palestine from Hamas

  • Registered Users Posts: 2,011 ✭✭✭kowloonkev

    What about 12 Angry Men when only one guy convinced the rest that your man was innocent. It's a movie but there's always going to be a few of them who basically want to get finished before the match is on or whatever.

    I think I'd rather put my fate in the hands of a judge to be honest. Or even a jury of law students. Anything but my peers!

    I think if you have to have 12 jurors then they could change the format so that some of them won't just go whatever way the wind is blowing. Maybe split them up into four groups of three, isolate the groups and convict if all four groups return a majority guilty verdict. Maybe isolate them all and let them vote independently and give their reasons.

    The idea that they have to meet afterwards and discuss it really concerns me because it basically suggests that some or most of the jury may not really understand or possibly even care about what has happened in the courtroom.

  • Registered Users Posts: 78,195 ✭✭✭✭Victor

    "Or even a jury of law students." - this is possibly the worst possible choice. People without practical experience, but with all the pre-conceived notions. They may also know that sections of evidence have been excluded and be prejudicial about this.

  • Registered Users Posts: 5,368 ✭✭✭JimmyVik

    They had formed their opinion straight off the bat when they heard the charge.

    Then they kept commenting that the guy was ugly and no way would she ever have got with a guy like him.

    There were 3 bullies at the start. Joined by another one who found it easier to bully than be bullied after about a day. And then joined by more the next day. Then they started accusing other people on the jury of bullying them. It was very eye opening watching it all unfold.

    On the last day when the judge said they would take 10-2 the rest of the people just rolled over in order to go home because there was no way in hell of .

    I actually sided on the guilty side but I paid careful attantion to the evidence to form my opinion. But there was no way in hell anyone would have got a fair trial with that jury even if they werent guilty.

  • Registered Users Posts: 5,368 ✭✭✭JimmyVik

    You dont just meet afterwards. You go back to the jury room together. You have lunch together and then you deliberate together. Its a lot of time alone in each others company. Even though you are told not to discuss it outside the jury room, it gets discussed at lunch. You also meet the odd person going home or coming in and it gets discussed then too. And some of them you can tell have been looking up the witnesses the next day by what they are saying about them, even though they wont tell you. You just wonder how do they suddenly know x, y and z about this person.

    Of course you look them up yourself after the trial and you find out where they got that info during the trial.

  • Registered Users Posts: 1,134 ✭✭✭jimwallace197

    Its grim & concerning, looks should not be coming into it or social media profiles. The judicial system needs to seriously up its game in this department.