Jury Duty What every American should know – and very Few legislators, judges, or lawyers want you to know.
One of the most thought provoking topics discussed in my MBA law course was the duties of a juror. We were reminded, we learned in high school civics, there are several ways ideas are turned into laws. The most common being when our elected legislators draft laws, discuss their merits, and vote those worthy into the law of the land. The second way law comes into being is when our law makers are vague or fail to fill in all the details. We must then rely on judges to interpret those laws. When this is done precedents are set and judges actually end up making the details of the law.
Occasionally laws become outdated or are not in the interest of the public and need to be undone or thrown out. Of course legislatures can review and decide to unmake a law. The constitutionality of a law can be challenged and our appeals courts or ultimately the Supreme Court can undo a law if it is in conflict with our Constitution..
What every American should know is when she or he sits on a jury, occasionally they will encounter a bad law or a situation for which the law should not apply. A few years ago I watched in awe as jurors were interviewed after a trial and said the defendant should not have been convicted, but they had to follow the law. WRONG! Maybe a judge has to try and strictly interpret a law but if circumstances were special in the jury’s eyes, and they truly felt the law should not have applied in their case, they should have voted not guilty.
A juror with some fortitude might try to enlighten her or his fellow jurors to the fact they do not have to convict if the law should not apply, or is bad, or outdated. A juror never has to give a reason for a not guilty vote and can just hang the jury if they are convinced a guilty vote would not serve justice.
Of course most of our legislators, judges, and lawyers would likely contend we lay folks have no business, knowledge, or right to do any thing but strictly rule on guilt or innocence as instructered by a judge. WRONG! It is your duty to vote not guilty if there is a problem with the law or if the circumstances should be considered.
I personally want to sit on a jury where the defendant is accused of violating a law which a legislature passed to protect a professions income by making a monopoly for it, under the guise of “protection of the public.” Specifically for me that would be laws which require persons practicing law or selling real estate to be licensed, any body else gets fined or goes to jail.
Why should lawyers or real estate agents be any different than accountants or ministers or such. For example, you can have a CPA, a degreed accountant, AARP trained assistor or just someone who is good or not good at tax preparation, do your taxes. Depending on your situation, any one of them might prepare your return perfectly, any one of them, including the CPA might make an error. The difference being, I can ask the $150 gal or the $25 guy to do my taxes. It is my choice, my risk, my judgment, I don’t need a legislature to choose for me who I can or can not have do my taxes. I can even do my own if I care to.
I would like the same opportunity for legal and real estate services also. These laws, in my opinion, only protect the rates lawyers and real estate agents can charge clients. Of course they were made to “Protect the Public.” Right!? But who do they really protect? As a percent, how many of your state legislators are former real estate agents or lawyers? In my state, it is about two thirds.
If you are ever a juror and get the chance to strike at a bad law, remember it is your duty as an American to see that justice is served. You are also part of the balance of power in this country. It is still, “We the People.” No intimidating jury foreman, or judge, or lawyer should be allowed to keep us from our rights as Americans. You can vote “Not Guilty” to protect a defendant against a bad law or a circumstance where the law should not apply.