Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Jury Trials

Yesterday I was listening to a bit of a talkback program on Radio National about the jury system:
It's at the heart of our legal justice system but is trial by jury always the best way of delivering just outcomes? Questionable behaviour by some jurors has seen two recent trials aborted. Two other extremely high profile cases are to proceed, despite the accompanying media hysteria. So are there particular cases when decisions should be handed back to the judges? And with the number of exemptions and exclusions, does the jury still represent trial by peers?

It was quite interesting, and covered things like the theory of what to wear if you do or don't want to be picked for jury duty, the lack of incentive to actually do your civic duty, and the fact that when they re-established jury duty in the Russian Federation, they decided to pay jurers as much as the judges.

Today Best Beloved had to front up to the ACT Supreme Court to take part in jury selection. All week he's been deliberating on what to wear: the Donny Darko t-shirt and tracksuit pants? Jeans and a flannie shirt? Tuxedo? In the end he wore one of his work suits and shirts, but added a burgundy bowtie embellished with tasteful gold gryphons. With his current neatly-clipped beard, he looked like a Professor of Norse Mythology or something.

What follows is an unedited email he sent me from his (work-provided) Blackberry:

Right, they even got the time wrong.

Now there's a queue.

Now waiting in a scummy room. I can feel a wall of antipathy, which I ascribe to the bow tie.

I do not recognise anyone, fortunately.

I wonder if some are thinking that they should have donned something ludicrous.

I'm number 58, whatever that means.

The sheriff sounds a little like Fozzie Bear, which is worrying. No he's not the sheriff, just a court officer. Now someone is making up stories about why they shouldn't have to attend.

There's an urn in the corner with instant coffee and Lipton's teabags. I hate to think what the lunch will be. If it comes to it, I might tell them that I only eat certified Kosher vegan organic food.

Now some people are giggling.

Now a man with a dirty checked scarf is pushing in.

There's also a screen and a projector. I can only assume that we will be shown some educational video about the justice system. I hope there is a question time.

Oh, the video is on. It's out of focus, and they have not turned off the lights, so you can only see the white bits.

No Oscars for the actors.

They turned off the lights, so I had to stop writing for a while.

I was interested to note that the all the actors were white, and the fictitious criminal had an Irish name.

I also knew one of the fictitious jurors, so I might have to be excused.

Each person who spoke in the video (other than the lawyers and judges) claimed to be public servants.

They are now having technical difficulties, so we are all sitting round waiting, and have been for half an hour.

The court officer has now told us that the courthouse was built in 1963, which is the explanation for the technical difficulties. Dr Who dates from 1963, and he doesn't have these problems.

There are people coughing. I hope I do not get infected.

Really getting very bored now. And still no apology for the balls up with the phone message and the web address.

Apparently the technical hitch is the the CDs. What CDs? I hope they play some Twisted Sister. And it's DPP's fault.

I've been reading my book, but even that is boring.

Later on he wrote to me and cc'd his workmates:

The court officer is now instructing the potential jurors in how to defraud the court by claiming parking expenses of $15 and then taking the bus.

To which his workmate replied:
Now's your chance to get out of there - ask him if that's ethical.

In the end, they'd selected the jury before they'd got to him. He went happily back to work, but has to return on Monday for another fascinating insight into our local legal system.

He then sent me a delighted email:

While I was at court the chaps printed off some “CRIME SCENE—DO NOT CROSS” ribbons and put them across my door.

It's so The Office it makes me giggle. He loves the thought of being popular with 'the chaps'. Jolly japes!


Mindy said...

I think I've now been called for Jury Duty three times - twice when I'd just left the region, so I didn't have to go, and once when Charlie was a baby and I couldn't go (I promised I'd be available the next year even though I knew I'd be gone then too). I guess next time I'll just have to do it out of guilt. Hubby once waited around a whole day before finally crabbily asking if he was needed, and the court officer said 'oh are you still here?' Only a supreme effort of will stopped him from appearing in court after that one.

Mummy/Crit said...

I have done jury duty. It was truly awful. The rest of the members of the jury were all total losers and they insisted on smoking in the little jury room in the bowels of the court building because they were the vocal majority. This was in 1995 when smoking had been banned in public buildings. I was so pissed off!!! The case was a very boring, very clear heroin possesion/supply one. Anyone with half a brain manages to avoid doing Jury Duty, it would seem.

ashleigh said...

In south oz you can't get out of it. Well you can - once, but if you defer you HAVE to attend the next time. Lots of boredom. Lots of turning up only to be sent away again. Fun times. Hope that its a bunch of small trials and not something that goes for 6 months.