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Published: Sunday, 5/1/2005

The role of juries should be limited

BY HANK BRYANT

MANY key arguments can be made about the important role of juries in democracy. First, juries provide people with the opportunity to participate in our government. In a democracy people's voices are heard; juries determine whether a person deserves certain punishments for certain crimes.

Another example would be that juries allow average citizens to have power in the courts and not only governmental officials. People in America have a say in things that can change their lives. Our government was built on the power of the people; juries allow people to have the power to say what happens in the cities and states.

Finally, having a jury affords defendants a chance to be heard, so that an honest verdict can be made. Many of the courts might follow the books, sentence defendants for crimes, and never hear why the crime was committed. With juries, defendants have a chance to state why they did what they did and hopefully explain why they shouldn't get too harsh a punishment.

There are three reasons why we should limit the role of juries in our legal system.

First, people may or will have their biased opinions. A great example would be when the United States was segregated and an all- white jury had to decide the fate of an African-American. Some people may lean in favor of one person before the trial begins and will have a biased opinion.

Second, in some cases there may be a hung jury. A hung jury will lead to a mistrial or a dismissal. A mistrial may not be in the best interests of everyone; especially if the person is guilty.

Finally, juries may be bought off or intimidated to make favorable decisions for criminals even if they think the defendant is guilty. If someone on the jury is scared that a big crime boss will hurt his family or loved ones, he may vote in the crime boss' favor.

Also, a person may need money and be easily bought off to vote a certain way. These are reasons why the role of juries in our legal system should be limited.

In every system there will always be faults. Here are some ways to fix those in the jury system.

First, you must keep jurors anonymous, thereby eliminating the chances of a buy-off. If defendants never find out who their jurors are, they would never be able to threaten or pay jurors off.

The next modification would involve stopping lawyers from selecting jurors. In the Michael Jackson trial, the jurors are all white and no blacks were chosen because attorneys felt that they would be sympathetic and rule in his favor.

Finally, juries must be paid for the time and effort they put forth in a case. Someone may want to get through the trial faster due to the fact that the ordeal is costing him or her money at his or her place of work. As a result, he or she goes along with the majority; the only one paying is the defendant.

Although our jury system is great for allowing people's voices to be heard, every great system comes with flaws.



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