A trial by jury is meant to be fair. It means that one judge can't make the ruling alone. The jury is theoretically made up of the defendant's peers, and they're supposed to be objective. This spreads out the power and means a corrupt judge can't jail people at will.
But is a jury actually fair? Some experts think it's not, and there are a few compelling reasons why.
Jurors Are Not Legal Experts
If you've ever been called for jury duty, then you likely know that the jury isn't made up of experts in the law. It's made up of normal people who may misinterpret laws, not fully grasp how the legal system works -- even if they think they do -- or be entirely ignorant of important parts of the process. Should these people really be deciding if someone has to go to jail or not? Are they just being swayed by emotions, not facts?
Legal Experts Are Typically Employed
What are the odds that at least one actual legal expert gets on the jury? Not only are they slim because most people aren't experts, but they're smaller because these people are typically very intelligent and highly educated. As such, odds are good that they're also employed, making far more than they'll make for jury duty. Some claim that real experts try everything they can to get out of jury duty.
It's Intellectually Challenging
This isn't to knock jurors, but some worry that they're simply not up to the task intellectually. They note that a court case is a scientific enterprise. It's complex. It's challenging. They say that getting through it successfully "surpasses the intellectual aptitude of most laypersons who are called to jury duty.” This isn't meant as an insult, but a critique. If people sitting on the jury aren't actually able to comprehend the intricacies of the case, are they really qualified to determine someone's fate?
Whether jury trials are fair or not, they continue to be used. As such, it's crucial for those accused of crimes to know all about their legal defense options.
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