We, the Jury: The Jury System and the Ideal of Democracy

We, the Jury: The Jury System and the Ideal of Democracy

We, the Jury: The Jury System and the Ideal of Democracy

We, the Jury: The Jury System and the Ideal of Democracy

Synopsis

In a new preface to this foundational book on the American jury, Abramson responds to his critics, defends his views on the jury as an embodiment of deliberative democracy in action, and reflects on recent jury trials and reforms.

Excerpt

We, The Jury first appeared in 1994, at a time of growing public cynicism about jury justice. Race everywhere seemed an insurmountable obstacle to impartiality. In Los Angeles Rodney King was the story. Many wondered how any jury could have acquitted four white police officers of beating an African-American man, after viewing videotape catching the officers in the act. The most likely explanation seemed to be the absence of any African Americans on the jury. South Central Los Angeles delivered its alternative verdict through riots in the street.

Miami experienced its own riots following a Hispanic officer's fatal shooting of an African-American man during a motorcycle chase. A local jury convicted the officer of manslaughter, but a state appeals court threw out the verdict because of prejudicial pretrial publicity. Florida authorities then went searching for a fair venue for a new trial. Tallahassee did not have enough Hispanics in its jury pool; Orlando lacked sufficient African Americans. After five shifts in the trial venue, the public had reason to wonder whether guilt in Tallahassee might turn into innocence in Orlando or vice versa: was jury justice so capricious?

Race was not the only factor confounding the search for impartial jurors. In child paternity suits, lawyers approached jury selection as a battle over whether women or men would predominate on the jury. In prosecutions of anti-abortion activists who blocked entrance to abortion clinics, district attorneys doubted that devout Catholics could enforce the law. In Texas, a . . .

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