Socialists and Jury Duty

Charles Brown CharlesB at
Thu Aug 24 07:57:39 MDT 2000

A "most democratic aspect of the U.S. legal system " , which is not to say much....


>>> hoov at 08/23/00 05:38PM >>>
> >>> xxxxxxx at xxxxxx.xx 08/21/00 10:48PM >>>
> I've just received a jury notice requiring me to attend court as part of a
> jury
> selection pool for one week. I'm curious what opinions people have on what a
> socialist attitude towards jury duty should be?
> ((((((((((((((((
> CB: Juries are a most democratic aspect of the U.S. legal system.

200+ years ago when US was established, small-d democrats (generally
egalitarian) cited political significance of jury trial, arguing for
it as one means of effective popular control.  Don't recall where
(may have been Aptheker), but I've read that there was great enthusiasm
for jury service at the time.

Of course, US juries have historically underrepresented minorities, women,
young, low-income because of ways that jury pools have been derived -
voter registration records, county tax rolls, residency lists.  Not
surprisingly, evidence indicates that juries comprised of middle-strata
"cross-section" tend to be unsympathetic to low income defendents.

In response (in part at least) to criticism of biased character of juries,
number of US states now use driver's licenses to select prospective jurors
(which may underrepresent older persons and many who live in urban areas
sans licenses).

It has only been since 1986 US Supreme Court decision in *Batson v
Kentucky* that prosecutors have been prohibited from using peremptory
challenges (potential jurors rejected "without cause") to exclude
based on race.  And only since 1994 SC ruling in *J.E.B. v Alabama*
with respect to gender.

Some states have reduced jury size from 12 to 6 or 8 persons and evidence
indicates that smaller size increases exclusion of minorities.

For working people, per diem that jurors receive is less than already low
pay that many cannot afford to but will lose during their jury time.

In actuality, jury trials in US are not used as often as might be
assumed.  In some jurisdictions, as many as 90% charged with criminal
felony offenses plead guilty (usually through plea bargain).  Of those
who go to trial, about 50% opt to have case heard by judge rather than
jury.     Michael Hoover

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