Okay, make that six in the
Trayvon Martin George Zimmerman case.
For a long time, at least since the OJ Simpson trial, I’ve had the sinking feeling that, in the age of Three Ring Justice, that the days of selecting twelve unbiased members of a jury may be long-over. Instead, the defense and prosecution seem to need to seek out the untainted: those untouched by media coverage.
But who does that really describe any more?
In most places, voter rolls are still the source of jurors. We’d like to think that we prefer an informed electorate (don’t get me started on the reality of the situation). But, in the case of jurors, being “informed” also usually means “disqualified.”
Sometimes, as hard as I try, I cannot help being “informed,” even about that which I would prefer to be ignorant. Granted, I reduce my chances of preserving absolute ignorance by having a Google News home page. But, still, I could not go for a beer at my favorite local establishment without seeing coverage of the Jody Arias trial. I tried to ignore the whole sordid tale of the peroxide swan who reverted to brunette duckling as a defense strategy. But, there it was, with my burger and beer, in my news headlines, even on the monitor at the gas pump.
So, how does one stay ignorant?
Juror B-37 said during the selection process that, for her, newspapers were for “lining the bird cage,” and no, she didn’t read them while performing that task. She did watch the news and had heard of the case, but, aside from thinking it unfortunate, had no opinion. I wonder if she votes? I wonder if she informs herself the same way for that other civic duty?
I loved the movie Twelve Angry Men, the original, with Henry Fonda. Yes, I understand the problems with the sort of juror activism portrayed in the movie. But at least it contrasted the involved and informed jurors with the ignorant and reluctant.
I’ve only been called for jury duty once–about three years ago (so I’m probably eligible again). I spent a week mostly offline sitting in the pool room. Got called to one selection group–it ended with the person to my left. Went back to waiting and reading.
A friend told me I’d never be selected anyway: too smart. Maybe that’s true–I wasn’t going to hide my nature to avoid or ensure service. She had covered her education and intelligence behind a wad of cracking gum and smart-aleck answers in a ploy to get dismissed. She got chosen.
I’m not sure how to address the ignorance issue. Or even if it really needs addressed. It just seems important for the jurors to be able to understand the evidence–and, for that, they need to be aware of the world, not ignorant of it.