Ignorant Juror, Malfunctioning Jury, Dysfunctional Justice

It was bound to happen, which is not to say that there is any excuse for it.  A juror during on a day off from trial, told the world via Facebook that she had already decided the defendant was guilty, writing that it was “gonna be fun to tell the defendant they’re guilty.” This statement, in addition to showing a disturbing lack of compassion and empathy, not to mention meanness, also was a violation of her duties as a juror. The trial wasn’t even finished, the jury hadn’t deliberated, and yet Hadley Jons, 20, had already decided on her vote and was bragging about it.

Fortunately, the post was discovered by defense lawyer Saleema Sheikh’s son. The next day, Circuit Judge Diane Druzinski confronted Jons, reprimanded her, and replaced her with an alternate. Jons now faces possible contempt charges, but the problem goes far beyond one foolish juror.

Michigan was the first state to ban jurors from having Blackberries, iPods and cell phones in the jury box. There is little the state can do short of sequestering juries in every case, however, to stop jurors who are ignorant of their duty to act with  justice and fairness from harming the parties, hinder the administration of justice and embarrassing themselves and democracy. When a community has too many citizens who haven’t taken the time to understand their own country’s justice system, whose ethical comprehension is rudimentary and whose common sense is nil, it is going to end up with incompetent jurors and malfunctioning juries. There is nothing just or fair about a jury system that depends on people like Hadley Jons.

4 thoughts on “Ignorant Juror, Malfunctioning Jury, Dysfunctional Justice

  1. Initially I’m amazed that someone would be so foolish and ignorant to the importance of giving one’s all when sitting as a jury…then only a few seconds later, I realized I wasn’t amazed, just disappointed, yet again.

  2. It’s because of actions like this and similar immature, thoughtless, reckless, corrupt, dishonest (lots of other adjectives I ought to list) actions of which we humans are capable (not to mention those of other officers of the law including judges and trial attorneys) that I am truly ambivalent about our justice system. I remain unconvinced that the concept of “jury of one’s peers” is possible in reality.

  3. . . . “possible” contempt charges? Only that juror replaced? (Did none of the others see or hear of the post?) I don’t know where to begin gonna-ing have fun with this cookie.

    When the decision was made to lower the age of persons to be given the PRIVILEGES to vote, sit on juries, get married, sign contracts, volunteer to become shell-shocked cannon fodder, and be prosecuted as adults, I have always believed — as do those who charge higher insurance premiums for drivers under 25 — that they went in the wrong direction. Before you toss kiddies willy-nilly into the ocean, you need to teach them how to swim. Float? Shout for help? While most teens (in this case, someone barely out of her teens, physically speaking) spend more and more of their school time prepping for national tests, exams, jobs or pre-professional educations, less time every year is given to inculcating civic responsibilities. Yes, there are 14-year-olds circumnavigating the globe or scaling Everest solo — no one questions their physical skills or judgement relating thereto — but that doesn’t make them ready to decide their own fate, much less those of others; it doesn’t necessarily give them a sense of how to behave in an (uh oh) ethical manner in society. In a recent online discussion on “lowering the drinking age,” I came across a woman’s con argument resting on the necessity that her daughter be exempt from jury duty because she had to study. If mommy still has to fight your battles, honey, she’s right — you shouldn’t be on a jury; and you shouldn’t be let out of the dorm on your own, either.

    There are huge flaws in our judicial system — I have a life full of stories, don’t you? — but until or unless it is changed, allowing ignorant, immature, uncaring participants functional entry into the system only shreds the fabric further.

    What to do. Require each juror to state orally (not just sign a piece of paper) — in the manner that each used to be sworn in: raise your right hand — the pledge to honor the court, the judicial processes, both in and out of trial, for the duration of the procedure. This would have to be couched in very specific terms and in a vocabulary even Ms. Jons could understand: “Being on a jury is like a good thing: I promise not to diss the defendant online” , etc. . . . the punishment in default of which would be to memorize the pledge and then write it out in longhand, without using Spelchek or phoning a friend, 1,000 times. And then completing, satisfactorily, a stint of jury duty. Every year. For the rest of her life. Or until she successfully passes an advanced Ethics course.

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