The truth, the WHOLE truth and nothing but the truth

Discussion in 'General Chat' started by Member 55145, Mar 13, 2006.

  1. Member 55145

    Member 55145
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    My question is this. Researchers have to know as much as they can about a given subject in order to come to a good conclusion.

    I am aware that Juries can be an odd bunch that haven’t had to deal with crime in their entire life and I know that a lot of things can be irrelevant to a case.

    Why is it common practice in a courtroom to hold lots of important information back from the jury? (I.e. discounting a knife from the scene of a murder because it wasn’t handled properly, which in turn is never disclosed to the jury) these are the people responsible for sentencing people be it to life or even death in some countries.

    Should we even have a jury of our peers at all? Or should we rather have jurors that KNOW about crime, and see how the system can be abused and perhaps have come across a particular offender before. Or do we need them to be unbiased/biased like they are now? I.e. one juror could hate black people

    Should the jury be told about previous offences, normally they are not allowed to know about anything relating to other cases. I.e. has this person raped/killed people before? (Though I hear this is being looked into)

    We live in a land that has been said it has one of if not THE best judicial system in the world. But is it fair? What are your thoughts on the system and the way that the jury is implemented?

    UK law only but feel free to refer to other countries if you feel it could benefit the topic
     
  2. shodan

    shodan
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    A lot of things are held back by the prosecution as they feel either weaken their case or strengthen the case for the defendant so, in my opinion as they have the backbone of a jellyfish, they won't want to put their case in danger. (Only fight a battle you can't lose kind of ethos!).

    Also, the jury can now be told about an accused previous convictions and this is called a Bad Character Reference. This has to be done by the police officer in charge of the case and unfortunately, not all police officers are trained to understand and utilise this so it goes undone. Although steps are being taken to educate officers who build case files.

    Personally I think a jury should be made up of a professional group of people. Folks who understand the law, its implications etc. The only downside is that these people will be subject to bribes and gratuities a lot more than than a normal jury may be.
    Also I think magistrates should be qualified solicitors at least. Their lack of knowlodge of law is sometimes shocking. It's the solicitors and clerks of the court who run that particular show in truth.
     
  3. GBDG1

    GBDG1
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    I think that an average member of the public is much more likely to be intimidated into delivering an innocent verdict than a legal professional. I personally know that if I was on a jury trying someone who was obviously a gangster I would be reluctant to send them down. Someone I know was on a jury trying a member of a notorious crime family; basically the public gallery was filled with his rather scary looking cronies, who spent the whole trial giving the members of the jury evil looks.

    If you are on a jury for 2 weeks you are much more likely to be influenced, knowing that no matter how bad the decisions you make, after 2 weeks you go home to your normal life, never to be affected by it again.

    If you are a professional you are accountable and have a professional reputation to uphold, thus you are much less likely to be influenced.
     
  4. Artie Fufkin

    Artie Fufkin
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    A good point well made Lawrenzini. This is not often mentioned in these kind of discussions but I believe it must have a huge bearing on some jury's decisions.
     
  5. NicolasB

    NicolasB
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    Well, there are a lot of different reasons for that. Sometimes it's an effort to ensure that it isn't too easy to manufacture evidence. If a witness, for example, is allowed to say "well, I've never seen him steal anything, but I was told by this bloke I met down the pub that he's a thief" then, even if the witness giving evidence is actually sincere, it's too easy for there to be misunderstandings, or for the "bloke down the pub" to be spreading false rumours. Thus, evidence of this sort is not allowed: it's classed as "hearsay". In order for this sort of evidence to be valid the witness would have to have first hand evidence that the defendant is a thief.

    Another possibility is that a piece of evidence may be (in the opinion of the judge) not directly relevant and consequently misleading. For example, if the defence counsel in a rape case wishes to bring up the fact that the alleged victim has had a rather colourful sex life, he probably wants to bring that up to prejudice the jury against her, and make them think that she's a bad person and deserved what happened, or that she was probably "up for it" at the time and changed her mind afterwards. The judge might decide that the victim's previous sexual history is not actually relevant in determining whether or not she consented to sex on this particular occasion, and therefore not allow that line of questioning.

    Another important reason is that it's a guarantee of civil liberties. It has been decided, for example, that the police cannot waltz into your home any time they feel like it: they either have to have reasonable grounds to suspect that a crime is actually being committed right then and there, or they have to present evidence that there are reasonable grounds for suspicion and get a search warrant. If a piece of evidence is acquired improperly (for example, by breaking into the defendant's house without a warrant), what then? If the evidence is admitted in the same way regardless of whether there was a warrant or not, then the police will routinely be breaking into people's houses all the time because there's no reason for them not to. But if you have a rule that evidence collected without following correct procedures can't actually be used in court anyway, this makes it much more likely that the police will stick to the rules, because there's nothing to be gained by breaking them.

    There are plenty of other reasons, too. If the results of some kind of forensic test are important, for example, then we need to be sure that there is no possibility of contamination: is it actually the same knife that was found at the crime scene? is there any way that defendant's DNA could have ended up on the handle after the crime was committed? etc.

    That's a very difficult question. On the one hand, it would seem obvious that experts are going to be better qualified to make a decision on something that falls within their area of expertise. On other hand, if the whole system is closed, and no one outside the legal profession is ever involved, what happens if that system becomes corrupt? Given how out of touch with reality judges sometimes appear to be, would you (assuming you were a rough working class sort of person) really want to have your guilt determined solely by some 70-year-old public-school-educated ponce in a silly wig? Would justice be done and be seen to be done?

    "Members of the jury, do you find this convicted thief to be guilty of theft?"

    Prejudicial? :)

    If I were a juror then I certainly would want to know about past convictions - but then I'm an unusually analytical and dispassionate person, and I trust myself not to be unduly swayed by something like that. I'm not sure I would trust the average member of the public to be that impartial. The corner stone of the British justice system is the presumption of innocence: the person must be regarded as innocent unless it can be proved that he is guilty beyond reasonable doubt; demonstrating that he is likely to be guilty isn't enough.

    On top of that, the law should should allow for the possiblity of rehabilitation. Sometimes a person can be convicted of theft but then not to go on to steal again. One thing that must be avoided at all costs is a situation where, if a person is once convicted of a crime, it is assumed that he will reoffend. If he's going to be found guilty of committing more crimes regardless of whether he actually commits them or not, then he might as well carry on committing crimes. It needs to be to his advantage not to reoffend.

    I'd be more inclined to tackle the adversarial aspect of the justice system first: rather than having one person whose job it is to prove guilt and a second person whose job it is to prove innocence (thus ensuring that all the evidence presented is biased!) the focus needs to shift to a more balanced, neutral attitude of "let's try and find out what happened". Something like the French "examining magistrate" might be a step in the right direction.
     
  6. Bat-man

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    How should we define peers?
    This definition perhaps:
    A person who has equal standing with another or others.
    How should we define equal standing?
    Can an all white jury deciding on a black person's innocence or guilt be considered that person's peers? And vice-versa.
    All men deciding on the fate of a woman? And vice-versa.
    Young jury - old defendant. And vice-versa.
    Of course there should be a mix of people but I would be concerned that, if I was in the dock, that the jury would not be made up of my peers.
     
  7. Member 55145

    Member 55145
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    Bat-Man you bring up a good point, your "peers" in a courtroom are normally made up of respectable people such as doctors, nurses, managers etc. maybe we should also bring in gangland bosses as they are more sympathetic to this persons way of life.

    but after all arent we looking for if an offence was commited and not why it was commited? maybe that need some looking into.

    Nicolas thanks for your input, i am only too aware of things that should be kept away from the jury which may influence a poor decision. infact i am struggling for changes in the way information is "changed" before being presented to a jury.

    Lawrenzini you also bring valued point, what fears do jurors face when convicting a person infront of their family/friends? are they given adequate information on what could happen?

    shodan
    also good point, but they are made up of professionals, just not professionals in this field, also professionals also have their share of predjudice

    remember, jurors are not their by choice. if you are called you HAVE to go, so many may not want to be involved but are forced too
     
  8. bob_bobbins

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    This post is a bit out of date but I thought I'd contribute anyway...

    There is a fundamental reason why previous crimes shouldn't be disclosed in a trial: the trial is about a specific crime. The jury must decide is it beyond reasonable doubt that the defendant carried out this crime. Firstly, you can't put someone away for being a generally unpleasant person, remember they've already been punished for any previous convictions, but also any occasion that the wrong person goes is convicted, the actual perpetrator goes free. Surely no-one would agree with that.
     

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