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Jury etiquette

  • June 8th, 2009

I’m not surprised if juries are becoming less constrained by protocols. Some jurors probably turn off to anything they’re told after their initial briefing when they are empanelled.

As a lawyer I’ll never be allowed to see it from the inside, but a friend told me of his shock at PC aspects* of the process (*see the update below).

He was first penned in with a mass of prospects who’d answered the summons to jury duty. They eyed each other, comparing notes on the best ways to provoke a challenge to escape without being caught in a trial. Some had chosen dodgy clothing. Others put their faith in goofy postures or mannerisms.

Off-hand staff then switched on a video outlining the role, and left (for a fag he suspects). The patronising video spooled through, first in English, then Maori, then Samoan, then Tongan, and he thinks other languages.

There was no one to answer the legitimate question of one disgruntled prospect – "why would someone who can’t understand enough English to hear these instructions be allowed to decide on guilt or innocence in a trial conducted in English".

The video carried on, completing two full rotations before the bored staff returned to switch it off.

PC idiocy at work does not encourage people to think that the rules matter.

[Update – Another friend has given more background. He says the video actually tells people in lots of languages to make themselves known to staff if they have trouble understanding English. That sounds sensible, not PC. It would be good to have a recent authoritative report.]

Comments

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Couldn’t they hang around to vaguely point out where the emergency exits & lifejackets are?

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  • Chuck Bird
  • June 8th, 2009
  • 3:41 pm

I was on a jury on a rape trial a number of years. The accused was totally fitted up by a vindictive bitch. The judge basically told us that in his summing up. He said there is no need for me to quote Shakespeare referring to a possible motive for the complainant to lie. After the trial a number of us including some women went to the pub and had drinks with the man falsely accused, his lawyer and his family and supporters. We expressed our sympathy to the young man for being forced to go through a court case because of a stupid policy of forcing rape cases to court because of the feminist lobby.

I was 100% certain the guy was innocent. I think all but one or two of the jurors felt the same. We reached out verdict in under 30 minutes.

I do not know went on in the jury room but find it hard to believe that the jury felt David was innocent rather than not guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. Their conduct after the verdict leaves the impression that sympathy for David may have played a part in their verdict.

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As a lawyer Iíll never be allowed to see it from the inside

the video actually tells people in lots of languages to make themselves known to staff if they have trouble understanding English. That sounds sensible, not PC. It would be good to have a recent authoritative report.

I was lucky enough to be called for jury service in the final year of my law degree, and lucky enough to get on one (I did have a friend who put “law student” as his occupation on the electoral roll just so he’d have someone object). A very useful experience, I think.

It wasn’t recent, as such, and I can’t say that I speak other languages to be certain that is what was said, but it was very much my understanding – “please tell us if you’re not up to this.”

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