Monday, October 29, 2007

The UnAmericanism of being American?

The issues of personalities playing a role in the overall outcome of court cases is a seemingly inevitable occurrence some would say. It starts at the center of the American system. Since the beginning of its creation, the United States has been engulfed in this prejudice blanket. It began with the creation of the country by aristocrats and climaxed between the 19th and 20th centuries with slavery and segregation. Every aspect of society becomes entangled in the bias of society and the personal stereotypes derived from those bias. It begins at the countries core and it is unreasonable to assume that the United States can overturn a four-hundred year tendency; regardless of how unfortunate it is. It is too high an expectation to assume that a juror can release individual presumptions the moment they are asked. However, the real problem surfaces in the outcome. Personality influence swaying verdicts becomes highly problematic when the innocent are being condemned or the guilty are being pardoned. That is immoral under the constitution and goes against every aspect of legal doctrine. The purpose of our court system is to uphold justice and to ensure that the laws are abided by in this country. Injustice is upheld when the innocent are made to suffer and when the guilty are given “get out of jail free cards” based upon jury opinion being held above the evidence.
At the center of this plight lies the question of jury and judge. Whether it is proper to allow people to be tried under our existing legal procedure, specifically in criminal cases, and begs to question whether 12 people can act according to obligation? It’s an age old question that sparked controversial debates throughout the 19th century. According to Liberty periodical writer, Steven T. Byington, “…in the presence of such prejudices,
trial by jury becomes an instrument of injustice. In order that there should be an even chance of twelve men taken at random being unanimously willing to judge according to certain principles, it is necessary that there be not so many as six per cent of the population who reject those principles." So does the jury then have too much power? It could be argued yes because the constitution of many states allows for the procedure of jury nullification to take place. According to this law, the jury is allowed to take the law into their own hands and render a verdict of innocent despite overwhelming evidence. This would seem in support of the verdict swaying because if a jury is swayed in opposition to the law they can legally disregard it
How can one expect to abide in the land of the free when social bias is unmanageably wedded together with every aspect of society?


Arty said...

I agree; it is overwhelming how much influence personal characteristics have on the court and jury's decision. I don't really see any way around the problem though, except using impersonal technology, such as computers, to relate that facts. But even then, judgments will be made regarding diction and syntax. I think it is unreasonable to try to do away with personality bias, but it would be much more just.
Instead of doing away with personal appeal in the courtroom, it could be mandated that the jurors explain their reasoning behind their opinion, and those that are blatantly bias thrown out. This too is idealizing an imperfect world, because nobody would be qualified to judge the logic of the jurors. However flawed this may be, it does seem like it would make the system a little more just.

Cody Green said...

Intersting topic - it parallels mine in some aspects. I posted about the jury selection process in determining the racial composition of juries, however in your case it would be more important in determining the personalities of jurors. The process is an interesting one, which I think you should consider discussing more in-depth. Although it will always be impossible to rid personal bias from our decision making, it is possible to filter the jury pool down to a group of highly rational people capable of looking past bias in order to make a just decision. This is the basis behind juror selection.