Juries Aren't Perfect

Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales), August 10, 2005 | Go to article overview

Juries Aren't Perfect


Byline: By CLAIRE HILL Western Mail

With the recent Michael Jackson trial in the States, and the UK discussions about specialist terror courts, the focus is firmly on the role of the jury. No system is perfect, but the UK version is one that is working to the best of its abilities. I suppose I have a number of concerns about the jury system in America. Number one, it can take ages and ages to vote in potential juries which can mean it is months before a trial starts. Number two is the ability of the juries to talk after verdicts. They have a system where juries can be interviewed after the event and express their misgivings which brings the system into disrepute.

If you are going to have a jury system - and there are a lot of fors and againsts for juries - then you cannot have them expressing views left, right and centre. Because this does bring problems for the system and can make it into a free-for-all.

The jury from the Michael Jackson trial have been extremely vocal after their final verdict of not guilty. Television appearances, press interviews and book deals have all been put in place as they reveal the secrets of the jury room.

Most recently two of the jurors have spoken out and explained why they think Jackson is guilty of his charges. They have made their case plain through the media and have said they will reveal more of their views in forthcoming books.

The problem with the American system is that it resembles too much of a theatre. They have a system where the cameras are in court filming dramatic moments, with people possibly playing up to them.

This is not good for the number one priority of a trial - to do justice for the individual cases. At the moment it is too much like a circus and too media driven.

Despite the problems with the British justice system it would be very bad if that kind of circus was introduced over here.

I am a very strong supporter of the jury system in Britain, but I do think it is coming under increasing pressure from the Government, indirectly, to convict in practically all serious cases of crime.

The criminal justice system is conviction driven. Because juries are under more and more pressure to convict, quite often they are making mistakes, particularly in the high profile cases.

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