Monday, April 18, 2005

The Paradox of Putting Faith in Jurors

Via Grits for Breakfast, I found this opinion at Rhetoric and Rhythm on the new LWOP bill that passed the senate last week. He makes a good point. We are trusting these jurors to evaluate all the evidence of guilt, innocence, punishment, and mitigation, and come up with the proper to decision as to whether someone should live or die. How can you, at the same time, say that to give them three options--life with parole, life without parole, and death--would just be too confusing? That's ridiculous. Across this state, juries are asked every day to decide the punishment for criminal defendants. In first degree cases where the defendant has no prior felony conviction, jurors have a range of choice from probation all the way up to life in prison. If you trust them with that decision, how can you not trust them with three choices?

Oh, and by the way, these are the same jurors who prosecutors hold up as paragons of wisdom every time a defendant appeals a conviction or sentence. You always hear them say things like, "Twelve citizens of this county heard all the law and the evidence, and made their decision, and for an appeals court to overturn the decision of those twelve jurors would be an act of arrogance and a slap in the face of the jury system." Would those be the same jurors who can't be trusted with three choices because it's just too confusing? Come on.

Oh, and one more thing. These are also the same jurors that our President, state legislators, and others don't think can handle making decisions when it comes to how much money a tortfeasor should have to pay to compensate for an injured party's pain and suffering. That's also just way beyond their capacity. The same twelve people that decide whether someone lives or is put to death by the state just don't have what it takes to decide whether Johnny deserves $500 or $5,000,000 for being paralyzed by medical malpractice.

I certainly don't believe juries always make the right decisions. I've seen plenty of cases where I felt like jurors ignored the law or the evidence and convicted because the crime itself was so heinous. These cases haunt me. But, you can't give juries the power to decide that someone should be put to death, and then stand up and say they can't be trusted to pick between three clear punishment alternatives.

That's my take. What's yours?


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2/24/2010 10:28 AM  

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