The time has come for us to transition to a paid jury system. I was recently called to serve as a juror in Osceola County, Florida, one of many invitations I have received over the years.
I'm now convinced, more than ever, that it's time for us to have a pool of well-trained, paid jurors to serve. As the voir dire process unfolded, I was further convinced that the time has finally come to address this issue.
I'm not sure exactly how many people were called to the jury pool that particular day, but I was juror number 243 and I heard them call numbers into the 300's so I have to assume several hundred people gave up that day or maybe several days for this duty. Imagine the cost to employers and employees to give up time for this process. In that room alone, it would have easily have been tens of thousands of dollars or more.
I get it. The constitution calls for us to be tried by a jury of our peers. I don't disagree with the constitution, but the thirty or so folks that gathered in the courtroom for a drug case for which we were called were not exactly a group of my peers. No disrespect meant, but I'd far rather trust a group of people who were trained and paid to be there than to depend on the luck of this draw, yours truly included.
The voir dire process allows the prosecutor and the defense attorney to question the pool of jurors on their likes and dislikes as well as their prejudices. Several people like me were turned down because of negative experiences we previously endured as jurors.
In my case, a domestic squabble between a man and his girlfriend was blown out of proportion and ended up with the accused being handed two life sentences because of "kidnapping" charges plus another twenty years for ancillary charges. I was so ticked off that I wrote the Supreme Court after the fact and the charges were reduced. The penalty didn't fit the crime, so the good folks doing the voir dire decided I was not a good candidate for whatever the reasons.
When we were questioned about our previous experiences, I had to own up to this especially since I had written an article a couple a months ago titled "I'm Done Being a Juror!" where I slammed the process because of what amounted to prosecutorial overkill. The penalty didn't fit the crime.
This brings me back to my premise. If we had professional jurors who were schooled in a fashion similar to the lawyers, they would be able to understand the consequence of their jury decisions. I suspect that high profile cases like the Casey Anthony trial might have gone a different way with professional jurors. Perhaps the prosecution and the lawyers themselves should have also undergone a voir dire process as well. Sometimes when you ask for too much you get way too little.
Paid, trained jurors could save millions of dollars a year in lost wages alone. If you wanted to be a trained juror, you could schooled for it and undergo the necessary background check. The voir dire process to eliminate conflicts of interest and prejudicial concerns would be much shorter.
The full day of questions and the largely moronic answers that many gave would not take nearly as long with paid, trained jurors. Some of these folks, who barely spoke English, would wax eloquently for ten or fifteen minutes at a time on how bad things were in their native country. Their comments had nothing to do with the questions the attorneys were posing to them, but they enjoyed hearing themselves talk. They need to show up at my Toastmasters Club on Friday morning, not the jury room.
All the time, effort and money spent on teaching the jury pool proper courtroom etiquette could have been eliminated. Even the time wasted on those few idiots that showed up like they were on their way to the beach with inappropriate dress would not have been necessary. The guy who was called down for not taking off his sunglasses wouldn't have been necessary. And the court's officers wouldn't have to bully people so and threaten them with contempt if they broke any of the many rules. Those rules would have been covered in their training. Does this make too much sense?