Friday, February 8, 2013

Post No. 186d: Why Jodi Arias Should Opt for Something Other Than a Jury Trial


© 2011 and 2013, the Institute for Applied Common Sense

For several weeks now, the American (and perhaps international) viewing public has been fascinated by the Jodi Arias murder trial. Although it has not generated as much buzz as the O.J. trial, and Nancy Grace is only spending 28 hours a day to cover it, every news outlet has a reporter on hand. Considering the dramatic change in her story (first that home invaders killed her boyfriend, then that she killed him in self-defense after a bizarre sexual escapade), Jodi should hope for something dramatic in order to be acquitted. We pulled this one out of the archives.


Last week, a staff member made a pound cake, and brought it into the office. Although the cake looked fine to us, she said that she became distracted while baking it, and that we might find the bottom a “little crunchy” because she baked it 20 minutes too long.

While we were transforming into Pillsbury Doughboys, Betty Crocker’s Father stopped by. He was serving as a juror on a jury trial at the courthouse down the street, and wanted a piece of his daughter’s cake. She also warned him of the potential crunchiness and the reason for it.

He appeared to enjoy the cake, but insisted that she baked it with the oven rack at the wrong level in her stove. Thinking that he did not hear her say that she baked the cake too long, she mentioned it again.

“I heard you the first time; that doesn’t matter.” he snapped, “What I’m saying is that you need to change the rack level.”

For the overly analytical ones of us here at the Institute, our thoughts instantly went to, “And this guy is serving as a juror?” We all hoped that he was serving on a civil jury, where only money was involved, and not someone’s liberty.

But there were 2 other experiences we had last week which made us further question the ability of criminal defendants to get a fair trial, apart from the efforts of the Nancy Graces of the world to convict them immediately after arrest and before booking is completed.

We previously mentioned our connections to the O.J. trial when the Institute was headquartered in Los Angeles. A friend of the Institute who knew of those connections called us shortly after “Tot Mom” Casey Anthony was acquitted in the death of her daughter, and said that it reminded her of the O.J. trial. The acquittal made her once again question our entire legal system.

She was apparently a fly in the jury room during the deliberations. Shortly thereafter, another tenant in our building asked whether we had heard of Anthony’s acquittal, and then immediately launched into how Anthony’s delay in reporting her daughter missing led her to believe that she was guilty. We suspect that there were enough stale donuts left in the jury room to support multiple flies.

These days, we aren’t quite sure how anyone receives a fair trial, with electronic media spewing sound bites at the speed of light. We seriously doubt that many take the time to digest even 1/100th of the evidence or facts involved, and yet they arrive at a conclusion.

To which they are entitled, no doubt.

We recall a friend once suggesting that because she saw photos of the mayhem inflicted on Nicole Brown Simpson’s body, she knew that O.J. was guilty. And of course, the former head of the International Monetary Fund was guilty, because the rich prey on the poor and consider themselves above the law.

We’re not quite sure whether this is what the Founding Fathers envisioned early on.

But as they often say, “You ain’t seen nothin’ yet.”

For most students of the law, the line between civil and criminal offenses is fairly clear, and there is even a different burden of proof built into our system of jurisprudence. And white collar folks, whether rightly or wrongly, don’t expect to find themselves locked up in a jail cell with “common criminals.”

(We can almost guarantee you that hundreds of our readers across the globe, upon reading the preceding paragraph thought out loud, “But they should!”)

Horse manure is about to hit the fan soon, and the whole notion of innocence until proven guilty is about to be severely tested. Just continue to follow this phone hacking scandal involving News of the World. What prompted us to write this piece was an e-mail alert from the New York Times just a couple of hours ago, entitled, “An Arrest and Scotland Yard Resignation Roil Britain.” Upon reading the e-mail further, it noted that Britain’s most highly ranked police official resigned, and Rebekah Brooks, the former Chief Executive of News International, was arrested.

Over the years, there have been calls in some circles for expert or professional jurors to address some of the imperfections associated with lay jurors. But one of the principles built into the system is that one is entitled to be judged by a jury of his or her peers.

For the sake of the system, and all involved, we sure hope that neither our pound cake crunching retiree, our disillusioned friend in California, our fellow tenant in our building, nor Nancy Grace are on Ms. Brooks’ jury.

She wouldn’t have a chance in hell.

Well, but then again, it could be worse. We could only allow politicians to serve as jurors….

Hmm..., but then they would never reach a verdict.

5 comments:

  1. Aside from the fact that I had not heard of Jodi Arias or her unfortunately kinky late boyfriend until I read about them here: juries are comprised of human beings . . . and human beings are flawed. End of story.



    Can you imagine the can of worms which would be popped open if we began administering litmus tests for jury eligibility? It would add another layer to our already-too-complex system of jurisprudence, and
    calculating lawyers (but I repeat myself) and perhaps even judges would have a field day exploiting such a system in the attempt to ensure that the verdict came
    out “right”.



    Please feel honored: I finally downloaded Google Chrome expressly so that I can comment on this forum.



    The Independent Cuss

    ReplyDelete
  2. Independent Cuss:

    Welcome back; it's been a while. You wrote:

    "Human beings are flawed." To the talking heads, news commentators, and politicians, this is certainly a novel concept. They would have us believe that everyone (or is it everything?) should perform like a well-oiled machine or computer, as was the case in the 1950s.

    Accepting for purposes of this discussion that humans are flawed, are there things that we, as a society, can do to the jury system to ensure that verdicts come out "right," if we can agree upon which constitutes "right?" Perhaps making the system "better" might be an achievable goal.

    We should always keep in mind that there is a difference between being "right" and being "accurate," and to many, being "right" is more important.

    Totally apart from the role played by jurors in our system of criminal jurisprudence, other human participants include victims and other witnesses, not to mention other humans related to them. We previously wrote about the potentially devastating effects flowing from human flaws in our piece, When the Surfboard Hits the Wall. It is worth re-visiting the issues raised again.

    Thanks again for checking in. We missed your insightful comments.

    P.S. We do feel honored. Interestingly, earlier in the day prior to your comment. we had the same conversation with another friend who is starting her own blog. Additionally, Chrome has a built-in language translator enabling one to read foreign language blogs.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Isn't it wonderful that the accused has the right to choose how they are to be tried? If you have no law on your side, appeal to the jury's emotion; if you have law on your side, waive the right to a jury trial and appeal to a judge. It's a variation of the old teaching about facts vs law...

    ReplyDelete
  4. Thanks for weighing in Douglas. You brought up a very important issue in our system of jurisprudence. We should note that getting a jury trial is not as simple as it might appear at first glance, and not all criminal defendants are entitled to a jury trial in all jurisdictions for all crimes. One can also waive a jury trial through failure to act.

    There is another issue in our mind, applicable to lots of purported "freedoms." There are many freedoms which we enjoy here in the U.S., even some Constitutionally-based, but we do not have to "exercise" all of them all of the time. In fact, there are occasions when one might consider not exercising a freedom, pursuant to the Doctrine of Unnecessary.

    Upon reading your comment, we also could not help but think of the American born wife of the famous Chinese language instructor, and how the Chinese legal system handled his indiscretions (beating his wife), not to mention the difficulties she had in getting the police to pay attention to her.

    Yep, as the Independent Cuss noted earlier, humans are definitely flawed, and devising systems to deal with human issues is problematic.

    ReplyDelete
  5. We often forget that our rights under the law are protected (not granted) by our Constitution and we sometimes do not realize we have a right that we can exercise (waive the right by inaction).


    I had a brother-in-law once who insisted on jury trials for all his traffic offenses. He claimed to always win.

    ReplyDelete

"There Are More Than 2 Or 3 Ways To View Any Issue; There Are At Least 27"™

"Experience Isn't Expensive; It's Priceless"™

"Common Sense should be a Way of Life"™

Opportunity to Serve as "Guest Author"

This forum was designed to be YOUR forum for the civil exchange of ideas by people with all points of views. We welcome the submission of articles by all of our readers, as long as they are in compliance with our Guidelines contained in Post No. 34. We look forward to receiving your submissions.