Justice and the Jury System ver. 1.0.2
“The Top Gun National Crises Troubleshooter”, Retired
The key to preventing a “Hung Jury” is to vote “Undecided” when the Jury wants a quick vote without examining the evidence and recreating the scenario of interest. A “Not Guilty” or “Guilty” Vote before this in-depth examination of the scenario of interest could very well result in a “Hung Jury”. When it’s “Guilty” against the “Not Guilty”; I’m right you’re wrong, this discussion can the result in a “Hung Jury”. It is best to continue with discussions with votes of “Undecided” until a consensus is attained.
In the movie “Twelve Angry Men” the undecided voter, Henry Fonda, voted “Not Guilty” when what he actually wanted was a discussion of the evidence and the scenario of interest. By voting “Not Guilty” this could have ended up as a “Hung Jury”. But this writer thinks broadcasting this movie is a good idea, it could help future Juries.
This writer was on a jury in 1997; it was a week-long affair with several idiosyncrasies. In essence a young male, early twenty, a recent immigrant from one of the war-torn countries where the US had been involved in a major conflict in South East Asia. There were two ethnic “Gangs” in close proximity; South East Asian and Hispanic.
On this occasion a minor of Hispanic origin bought a six pack of beer and went to the nearby lake and consumed an unknown quality of the beer. He may have had a companion, he may have stashed the leftover beer or he may have consumed the six-pack by himself. No toxicology report was offered or asked for by the Jury.
In short, the South East Asian Gang (SEAG), who had been playing basketball in a nearby outdoor court, had an altercation with this young, intoxicated Hispanic male on his way home from the lake. At some distance from the SEAG this young man flashed his “Walkman” to the SEAG to make them think he had a gun.
He must have been successful as the SEAG returned to their homes and armed themselves for a Rumble. The SEAG returned to the neighborhood of the Hispanics. The young Hispanic with friends went to his home, walking in front of his father, who was consumed with watching daytime TV, and armed themselves with the stash of Fighting Knives (LARGE Double bladed, illegal knives) that the young Hispanic kept in his bedroom. They passed by in front of his father, watching TV, and proceeded to confront the SEAG at the nearby corner.
The Hispanic Gang (HG) approached the SEAG with open fighting knives hidden behind their backs. The scene quickly turned into hand to hand combat. The young Hispanic was chasing the early twenties new immigrant with his large Butterfly Knife. The new immigrant pulled his gun from his waistband and fired about three rounds behind him as he was running. Evidently the first round hit the young Hispanic in the heart and he was dead before he hit the ground. The new immigrant tossed the gun in the estuary.
The DA had charged the new immigrant with Murder I, lesser charges were made available to the Jury: Murder II, Man Slaughter or Unintentional Manslaughter. The Judge ruled that the defendant was in possession of an illegal fire arm, no concealed weapon permit, and therefore could not plead “Self-Defense”.
By Friday afternoon the Jury was released to the Jury Room. A Foreman of the Jury was selected and a blind vote was asked of the members of the Jury. The count was eleven “Guilty” and one “Undecided”. Jurors made arguments for their vote. A few more blind votes were taken with the same results (11-1). The undecided voter was asked to disclose their identity, this writer did. More arguments took place and more calls for a vote were taken.
One of the female Jurors (Teacher), familiar with this writer’s status at a local institution and therefore was like all the other people she had experienced from this institution to which she had a negative opinion. In fact previously in the Jury Room she spoke negatively about this writer reading a physics book on acoustic guitars. After that altercation this writer started reading Plato’s “Republic”. She now accused this writer of being prejudiced in favor of the defendant and he should be removed from the Jury Panel.
During the initial interviews, with the DA and defending counsel, of the Jurors this writer had to confess that he was once a gang leader during his high school days; it was the fad of the time (Westside Story). The DA asked this writer if he was a minor and he confirmed that he was at this time. The DA asked him what we did after high school and he told him that most of us joined a larger gang and we had a rumble with another large gang. The DA asked this writer for the names of these gangs and he stated the US Army, US Marines and he had joined the US Air Force. His assignment was to send in helicopters and aluminum caskets into South Vietnam and send the fallen back to their families for burial. This Teacher only heard the gang part, of this interview, as the defendant was also identified as a gang leader.
Gangs are a whole new subject to cover, mostly misunderstood by the general public. From a scientific perspective there is a basic human need to belong to a small group that functions as a family. When these young people find themselves without family, they choose to form these artificial families. The causes of their loss of family are numerous and include dysfunctional families (alcoholic, drug addicted or absent fathers), new immigrants from foreign countries often form ethnic specific gangs. These gangs are not necessarily a negative social group that is going to exhibit violent behavior although their natural instincts are to protect their home territory. This behavior is common among many mammals of the world.
The Chairman of the Jury asked this writer what he had to say about these charges of being prejudiced, he stated that he didn’t think he was the one with a problem. The rest of the Jury Panel backed him up on this and this Teacher was now pleading with the Jury to not remover her form the Jury and that she would no longer be prejudiced and would go along with what the Jury had decided. This made the Jury dysfunctional as this non-proactive stance meant that in function the Jury now had only eleven voting members. However, it was late on a Friday afternoon and nobody wanted to have to come back on Monday to finish up this public service. This Jury decided to proceed to a consensus vote.
One of the Jury (twelve college graduates some with much training in making expeditious decisions), asked this writer to take the floor and lead them through his view of the scenario that had taken place. As he progressed to reconstruct the events that led up to this tragedy, others joined in with their observations as well. When he had finished we discussed our options and had verbally agreed to the charge of “Unintentional Manslaughter”. A Vote was taken and this charge was unanimous. Maybe because it was late on a Friday afternoon and nobody wanted to come back on Monday, they had a living to make and were not being compensated for Jury duty (not much), except for this writer and maybe a few others, and this was the least offensive charge that could be found for this defendant, which given the extenuating circumstances, was appropriate for this defendant.
The Jury assembled in the court room and the Foreman of the Jury reported the verdict. The defending attorney was heard say to the defendant that he had been given a gift. Some members of the Jury met with the family of the young Hispanic boy and they felt like we did our duty in convicting the person who took their son’s life.
Who or Whom is really the Guilty Parties
But who or whom are really the guilty parties to this tragedy? Is it the one who sold a six-pack of beer to this under age young man? Is it the father who was more interested in watching daytime TV than supervising his minor aged son and knowing that his son was hiding an arsenal of fighting knives in his bedroom? Could it be our Immigration Department and their lack of indoctrination of the laws of our society to these new immigrates? Could it be the lack of training of Jurors to conduct these meeting and arrive at a just verdict? It is this writer’s opinion that there are many people and institutions responsible for these tragic events.
A Quick Solution
One Band-Aid approach would be to strengthen our parole boards with knowledgeable, unprejudiced members who are compensated sufficiently for them to take as much time as necessary to see that Justices is the result of our Justice and Jury System. It could be that the Parole Boards are the ones who can ensure that the courts and Juries are handing down “Just Convictions”.