The automobile, particularly in America, has always been an icon of freedom and our way of life. Our jury system has also been held in that light. To restore an old car that has become unreliable, do we need to look at the whole vehicle? Yes. Do we have bad laws on the books? Yes. Do we have bad judges on the bench? Yes. Do we have incompetent and overzealous prosecutors? Yes. Do we have attorneys who break the rules to benefit their clients? Yes, many. However, under the hood of this vehicle we depend on every day, our justice system, is the jury box. The engine that moves it. As with any engine, a neglectful owner pays the price in the form of breakdowns. The longer one delays necessary repairs, the more extensive and expensive they become. Making merely politically correct changes would be akin to waxing a decrepit car. Getting us back on the road with a system that has integrity, one in which we can have confidence, is now going to require more than just a tune-up.
Revisiting the major points of this book begins with a look at the present makeup of our juries. The system relies too heavily on public employees who receive their paychecks regardless of how long they serve, as well as those employers who also have generous compensation policies. The system isn’t fair to those employers or the taxpayers who ultimately have to foot the bill for public employees who are absent from their jobs while serving on juries. Scofflaws and those who beg out of jury duty with flimsy excuses weaken an already frail system.
The ability of any person to serve on any case must be questioned. It makes no sense. Universal ability is not a concept we subscribe to in any other aspect of our society, let alone with respect to a component as important as our jury system. We don’t hand out driver’s licenses to just anyone. We require testing. You want to ride a motorcycle? That’s another test. You want to drive a truck or a school bus? That’s more testing. The list goes on.
Yet another test is the one jurors face after being seated in a case. The one that starts when the judge gives them instructions regarding what they must do and what they cannot do. In an automobile, all the parts have to be in working order. A defective one-dollar part can shut you down, and the jury component of the justice system is not a minor part. It is the engine itself. For the system to work, it must work as designed. It cannot neglect that duty or reinvent itself to serve a different purpose. And a duty it is, not a right.
As with an engine rebuild, the first step is diagnosing the American jury system problems. The trial jury reforms offered in this book fit together like the steps a good machinist would take in rebuilding an engine. If you do the job right, you’ve got something that will prove itself reliable and long-lasting. If you cut corners, you’ll be back on the side of the road with the hood up.