I had jury duty today and justice was served, or at least I think so. I was juror number 18.
Fourteen of us showed up at Framingham District Courthouse at 0830 today and at 1130 we were dismissed. It would seem that those who were guilty admitted to it and accepted their just punishment or the defense attorneys were able to convince the prosecutors that they were wrong, wrong, wrong. The other option was that the defendants opted for a trial by the judge alone, as is their right.
Either way, our job was to be there as a threat of a trial, in case. That is a very important thing. Us showing up meant that justice was available and that a long, drawn out proceedings was not necessary.
I think that serving on a jury is one of the two most important things one can do to keep our democracy. Not every nation has trial by jury. Some, such as Germany, have a panel of judges.
The other important act by a citizen is to vote. Both are a tapping on the nail that secures the door behind which lurks tyranny.
While I much prefer our system of criminal justice to that on the European mainland, I would think that there are other systems for dealing with criminal offenders that would work, provided the incentives were properly placed (e.g., reduction of crime vs number of convictions).
The real importance is that the jury, petite or grand, is a defense against the tyranny of the state. We don't see much tyranny by the state these days, but that is because our system of justice is working for us. If you look at justice in parts of this nation after the Civil War you would know it is not always such. The fact that citizens do their job and serve on juries and vote is critical to the proper maintenance of civil society and our democracy.
Speaking of Framingham District Courthouse, I would like to say that from my perspective it is a smooth operation, from initial security screening to final release.
When we were all seated in our jury pool room, the Court Officer, Mr David Forte, gave us a quick rundown. Monday had been civil cases (12 people to a jury) and today was criminal cases (seven people to hear the trial and then one picked at random to go home and six to do the deliberations and render a verdict).
After that we saw a video by Supreme Judicial Court Chief Justice Maggie Marshall. After the Chief Justice gave us a pep-talk we got a good rundown on our duties and what would happen from a judge and some lawyers, all on video. One of the points they emphasized was that it was one day waiting or one trial and that trials normally lasted only one day and our chances of having to show up was such that it was about once every three years.
Since everything was settled by plea bargain or trial by a judge, Mr Forte came in at 1130 and thanked us for our time and trouble and released us to be on our way. Mr Forte and the Framingham District Courthouse were fine exemplars of how the Commonwealth should run.
The way it should be. Justice was done and tyranny was held down.
Regards — Cliff
10 months ago