The Essence of Our Legal System
Spending time in the courtroom is definitely not like spending time in front of the television set watching Law and Order. In fact, the two are really nothing alike. A room full of observers and people invested in the case usually does not present itself in the actual courtroom. The attorneys are not amazing orators who know just what to say to change the entire outcome of the case. Media personnel are no where to be found. Sometimes one may even think that the courtrooms are deserted historical sights only open for special occasions. All of these things came as quite a shock to me when I spent my time in the courts. At times my experience was interesting and fun, but more often it was boring and not so much fun. Despite all of the unexpected, one aspect of the courtroom was very similar to what I see on television: the jury. The jury was the only thing I could look to for comfort in my unfamiliar and unforeseen courtroom experience. The juries in the county courts were exactly like the ones in Law and Order. They sat in the corner quietly and got up and walked out when they were dismissed. They came back and sat in their seats when the proceedings started again, and they only spoke when they were spoken to. They were very respectful to the judge, the courtroom and the entire system. The jury is that special aspect of the courtroom that makes it something safe and familiar. It is important to incorporate the jury in analyzing the legal system by looking at its role in the system and other social and psychological aspects of the jury. The jury would really be an unusual thing if it was brought into every day American society. Think of what it actually does. It is a group of people who basically has to sit there, listen to an argument and not put any input in during the argument. Very few people in the United States today would be able to sit and listen to a dispute for hours without giving their own advice to each of the parties. It is a part of our American culture. We like to be involved, and we like others to know what we think. Being on jury duty is probably a challenge for many since it is nothing like what they have ever had to do in life. The fact that the jury is passive in legal proceedings is the basis for other problems with the jury system. The jury cannot say a word, cannot ask any questions, but they are the individuals making the decision. The people who do not have any input in the final decision are the ones who ask the questions and find information. In A Trial by Jury, D. Graham Burnett asks "How did it happen
that a practice of truth-seeking had evolved to divide the job up in all these curious ways? The asking of questions was reserved to those who would play no role in judging the answers, while we, the jury, who were supposed to figure out what had gone on, had to remain absolutely silent" (37). However, I think the problem and the discrepancy lies in the fact that the jury usually thinks that the goal of the proceedings is to find the truth, but the goal is actually to "resolve disputes on the basis of information provided by contending parties during formal proceedings" (Adversary System 1). If this primary goal was conveyed to the jury and the larger public, there might be less criticism of our current adversary system. People would understand what their real jobs were when acting as jurors. Finding the truth would certainly help in resolving disputes, but it would only be an aide, not an aim. Thus, if the job of the jury is to resolve disputes, how do they go about such a difficult task with the resources they are giventheir ears, and sometimes a notebook and a pencil. It is hard to see how such an important and far reaching decision only allows these few things. Sometimes, even ears fail us, and those are basically all that the jury has to rely on. The jury and their responsibility relies more on instinct, personal feelings, and...
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