How to Get Rid of Jury Trials

Posted by Lawrence Taylor on April 22nd, 2005

Easy: Get rid of jurors. Did you ever wonder why it's getting so difficult to find citizens willing to serve as jurors? From WSN-TV in Miami (April 14):

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (AP) — A teenager did his civic duty by showing up for jury duty in Fort Lauderdale. But 19-year-old Stacey Forbes is now serving a four-month jail sentence for contempt of court for not disclosing he and his father had arrest records….

Forbes says he had problems reading the jury questionnaire. Tests show he has a seventh-grade reading level. He has been arrested twice in the past year but has never been convicted of a crime. His judge has rejected a request to reconsider the high school dropout's sentence.

And a few days later, from AP/AOL News:

LOS ANGELES (April 20) – Call it a rude awakening. A juror was cited for contempt and fined $1,000 by a judge for yawning loudly while awaiting questioning in an attempted murder trial. The fine later was reduced to $100. The yawn came after the man, identified as Juror No. 2386 in an April 1 court transcript, had been sitting in a courtroom for two days as part of jury selection.

"You yawned rather audibly there. As a matter of fact, it was to the point that it was contemptuous," Superior Court Judge Craig Veals said. "I'm sorry, but I'm really bored," the juror said. "I'm sorry?" the judge responded. When the juror repeated his statement, he was admonished by the judge for having a "lousy" attitude. "Your boredom just cost you $1,000. I'm finding you in contempt," Veals said. "Are you quite so bored now?"

It may be getting difficult to find jurors, but it's apparently getting even more difficult to find decent judges. However, judges aren't the only ones making this civic duty less than a rewarding experience, as this story I posted last month indicates:

LOS ANGELES (March 24) AP – Jurors who acquitted actor Robert Blake of murder – and were later called "incredibly stupid'' by District Attorney Steve Cooley – want an apology. "I'm just disgusted,'' Blake jury foreman Thomas Nicholson said Thursday. "It appears to me he has no faith in the jury selection. After all, it was his people who helped choose us.'' On Thursday night, Cooley stood by his comments. "Bottom line it was the wrong verdict,'' he said. "Sometimes jurors should be held accountable for their mistakes.''

Kind of makes you want to run down to the courthouse and volunteer, doesn't it?

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