A verdict on juries: once they work, they work nicely - Writing Essays Online

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Saturday, October 29, 2022

A verdict on juries: once they work, they work nicely


The jury system works nicely when jurors respect the principles. However whether or not there are clear fingers among the many media personalities who’ve inserted themselves into the story, time will inform, writes Mark Sawyer.

The discharging of the jury within the rape trial of Bruce Lehrmann made October 27, 2022, a black day for Australian justice. The price of the aborted trial runs into the thousands and thousands, however the extended anguish it has brought on accuser and defendant.

Lehrmann has pleaded not responsible to the cost of raping a fellow political aide, Brittany Higgins, in an workplace at Parliament Home, Canberra, in a case which has drawn saturation media protection.

The presiding choose, ACT Chief Justice Lucy McCallum, dismissed the jury after it was found one in every of them introduced data into the jury room which had not been offered in the course of the trial. “It’s past query the conduct of the juror is resembling to abort the trial,” she stated.

Opposite to her instructions to the jury to not undertake their very own analysis, the chief justice stated three tutorial papers which had not been offered in court docket had been inadvertently found amongst one of many juror’s notes.

A system below scrutiny

It’s at these occasions that the validity of the jury system, an inheritance of British legislation, comes below its harshest scrutiny. The Lehrmann trial had run 12 days, with 5 days of deliberations. Not solely has there been a large waste of public cash, however the individuals at the moment are compelled to relive the matter. Higgins was clearly distressed when she addressed the media after the trial was aborted, and Lehrmann’s life is on maintain till the anticipated retrial in February. There are not any winners.

Brittany Higgins responds after trial ends

It’s not the primary time the conduct of an Australian jury has come below an unwelcome highlight, and that’s not simply the verdicts that had been overturned, such because the conviction of Lindy Chamberlain for murdering her daughter Azaria. Within the Nineties, a juror did not disclose his private and political hyperlinks to former Queensland premier Joh Bjelke-Petersen, who was on trial for perjury. Florence Bjelke-Petersen later stated “they might have plonked” her husband in jail if not for that errant juror.

And with the most recent fiasco, it’s pure at these occasions to query whether or not the traditional system of judgment by our friends has reached its use-by date. In spite of everything, we now stay within the age of the specialist, the degree-qualified skilled, not the gifted beginner. And if a juror indulges in some beginner sleuthing, the construction can collapse alarmingly quick.

It is likely to be reassuring to notice that there’s one other, far more constructive aspect to the establishment of the jury.

Based mostly on my expertise of a protracted trial, I’ve nothing however reward for the system. The worst that might be stated is that the biscuits equipped by court docket officers had been a bit on the tasteless aspect and that the espresso got here in packets. If my expertise is any information, the jury a part of the system no less than is functioning nicely and serving the individuals in addition to might be hoped.

Severe individuals, unserious individuals

The case on which I used to be a juror concerned actions by an individual in authority in opposition to kids many years in the past. The trial was one thing of a marathon, however the jurors didn’t flag. Even earlier than the deliberation course of, my fellow jurors gave each indication of being critically dedicated to making sure the proper and honest final result.

They kicked round eventualities with nice vigour, and examined inconsistencies rigorously. I misplaced depend of the variety of notes requesting data and clarification that we despatched to a seemingly appreciative choose. Our folders grew fats with our copious notes, a few of which served as case summaries throughout deliberations. We solely slackened in our note-taking within the ultimate week of the trial after we had been assured that the summaries of Crown and defence could be made accessible for our deliberations. And even then, a few of us stored up the vigorous note-taking.

To my gentle shock, I discovered myself pondering that we introduced larger inquisitorial rigour to our process than do half the interviewers and speaking heads that float throughout the airwaves of the ABC. I remembered the quote by American political commentator William Buckley:“I’d reasonably be ruled by the primary 2000 individuals within the phone listing than by the Harvard College school.”

That’s not how one disgruntled juror, from one other trial, sees it. ”Silvia” was disgusted by the antics of her fellow jurors, who she believed didn’t take the case critically and by no means thought-about something however a not-guilty verdict.

A person had been grievously wounded after falling from a balcony throughout a consuming binge. His buddy, the accused, was acquitted of all costs regarding the matter.

It left Silvia with a bitter style as a result of so lots of her fellow jurors adopted such a jocular perspective to a boozing mishap. ”They even wished to carry alcohol into the jury room. One stated it might loosen me up and make me see the logic of their argument.”

Silvia doesn’t agree with the British system. ”I come from a European nation the place the Napoleonic Code applies. Trials must be determined by judges, who’re skilled in all authorized issues.”

The juror who brought on the Lehrmann trial to be aborted might now be feeling the new breath of disgrace on his or her neck. And for what? My notion of jury responsibility is that it was the primary ”job” that I didn’t take dwelling with me. As quickly as I took off my numbered tag and exited the court docket complicated, I used to be below no expectation to provide the matter even a second’s thought. For jurors with busy lives, that is likely to be a uncommon feeling of liberation.

No place for beginner sleuthing

Throughout our trial, I heard an ABC radio program by which journalist, Louise Milligan, who has turn into a distinguished chronicler of sex-abuse circumstances within the Catholic Church, denounce the way in which such circumstances are tried. She recommended that prosecution witnesses be granted their very own authorized illustration, as a result of the prosecution doesn’t symbolize them personally. That concept deserves consideration.

Nonetheless, usually, jurors are a robust and functioning pillar of the system. A lot of the Lehrmann jurors have clear fingers. Whether or not there are clear fingers among the many media personalities who’ve inserted themselves into the story, time will inform.

As ”my” trial approached 10 weeks, my colleagues continued to assault the manifold dilemmas of the proof with thoroughness. The youthful ladies on the jury had been particularly spectacular of their thoroughness, and willingness to steer the method, commandeering a whiteboard and marking notes within the massive folders containing transcripts of the trial.

My recommendation to jurors is: overlook the beginner sleuthing and revel in a really completely different a part of your life. If nothing else, the jury room is a superb place throughout court docket lulls to meet up with that ebook you’ve got all the time meant to complete.

As quickly as I used to be thanked by the choose and packed up my belongings, I used to be already yesterday’s factor for the authorized system. Oh nicely, that IS the system. The jury had performed its job, and all of us went again to our lives. I used to be left  pleased with my small position, and pleased with my fellow jurors.

Media silence urged on Lehrmann rape trial



Mark Sawyer is a journalist with Michael West Media. He has in depth expertise in print and digital media in Sydney, Melbourne and rural Australia.



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