Wednesday, February 20, 2002

"DO YOU BELIEVE that, because a person was arrested and charged, he is probably guilty?"

I didn't answer "yes" to that question on the voir dire questionnaire at first. But when the judge instructed me and my fellow prospective jurors to answer in the affirmative if we had any doubt about any of the questions, I went back to that one and did so.

The more I think about it, the more I think it was the right thing to do. And not just because it got me excused from jury duty. Probably guilty, as in 50.00000001 percent likely? Duh! I'm not rebelling against the principle of innocent until proven guilty (that was a different item on the questionnaire), and I'm not saying I couldn't judge a case fairly. But if you want my honest opinion, sure, I do believe that most defendants who get to this stage in the process are probably guilty. The iffy cases get thrown out or plea-bargained away. Do some bogus ones still make it to trial? Sure. But I think the justice system must be batting better than .500.

Polite society expects us to lie on questions like that, no matter what the judges say. When a jury is hopelessly deadlocked (I've been there), judges won't take that for an answer the first time or two. The jurors are urged to try really hard to come to a unanimous decision. We're supposed to believe that means something other than "Vote against your conscience to make things more convenient." Right.

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