The Right To A Free Trial


One of the most important freedoms in the American judicial system is
the right to a jury trial. This allows a minimum of six Americans, chosen from
a list of registered voters, to determine a person\'s guilt or innocence through
deliberations. They have the power to express the conscious of society as well
as interpret and judge the laws themselves. If they feel that a law is
unconstitutional, evil, or even unfair they can void it for the circumstance by
declaring the defendant not-guilty. The power of the jury is enormous and
through time has become more equitable by decreasing the limitations to become a
juror including race and sex. Part of the reasoning behind the right to a jury
trial is to limit government power. Although judges should be fair and just,
total power is too strong, and could be used to aid some people while harming
others. As someone once said, “Power corrupts sometimes, but absolute power
corrupts absolutely.” Many people thought anarchy would form through the use of
a jury system, but no such thing has occurred. It has produced a feeling of
involvement in the judicial system and government itself. Throughout this essay,
a comparison of a real jury, a simulated jury, and Hollywood\'s perception of a
jury will be discussed. The television special, Inside the Jury Room, showed a
videotaping of a real life jury as seen in a small criminal courtroom. The case
was Wisconsin v. Leroy Reed, a criminal trial for the possession of a firearm by
an ex-convict. The simulated jury concerned an ex-military man who shot two
police officers, killing one and seriously injuring another. The police had
broken into his house because there was probable cause to believe he had drugs.
The man shot the officers because he thought they were robbing his house. The
Hollywood version, titled 12 Angry Men, revolved around a teenage boy who was
accused of murdering his father and could possibly lose his life if found guilty.
The topics of jury selection and appearance, the jurors understanding of their
significance, and the deliberation and verdict will be examined for the three
juries.
The actual jury itself, has much bearing on how a verdict will result.
Are the members compassionate? Rigid? Black? White? Rich? or Poor? All of
these factors can influence a jury; this is why lawyers are so critical when
making their decisions. In the past, juries only admitted white males, as in 12
Angry Men. Discrimination against blacks has always existed; and until the
fifteenth amendment was passed, and the Grandfather Clause, White Primaries, and
literacy test were declared unconstitutional, they could not vote. Women,
although the population\'s majority, were the last to be given suffrage rights.
The men in the movie seemed affluent and business-like. Some of the men came
from meager backgrounds, yet they all act as if they were solvent. Also, the men
were adorned with professional attire. In contrast, Inside the Jury Room chose
a group of jurors of mixed ethnic backgrounds and genders, in various
occupational settings. There were psychiatrists, teachers, and business people
with many different life experiences. Also, the dress was not at all formal.
The differences among the jurors contributed greatly to the insight and opinions
shared about the case. A psychiatrist was able to give her professional opinion
on the man\'s condition, mental retardation, while others could be more
objective. A well-rounded jury can, in my opinion, produce a more educated and
thought-out verdict. In the simulated jury, the jurors were selected randomly
and personal opinions and biases, were not considered. This affected the
decision tremendously. The majority of Maymester students are reverse-transfer
students and tend to be, statistically, more conservative and tough than normal
community college students. Ergo, the verdict was not fairly considered from a
wide array of viewpoints. To the lawyer and the defendant, jury selection is
probably the most important vehicle for attaining a verdict that is favorable to
their position.
One major problem in having average citizens making such important, even
life threatening decisions, is that often jurors do not understand how
significant of a role they are playing in the process. During Inside the Jury
Room, due to Leroy\'s retardation, the jury felt that the case never should have
come to trial. He did not understand what he was doing wrong and he was of no
danger to society. One juror called it a waste of time and a “Mickey Mouse”
case. Another juror would not even formulate an opinion for the group. Rather,
he said he did not care, but would go along with the