20 February 2013

The "Common Sense of the Jury"...

You're probably aware that the ex-wife of ex-Lib Dem Minister Chris Huhne is on trial for allegedly helping him get out of a speeding ban.

Huhne has pleaded guilty to the charge. Ms Pryce has accepted that she took the point, but is basing her defence on the rare "martial coercion", i.e. she was forced to do it by her husband.

After being out for 14 hours, the jury have been discharged after being unable to reach even a 10-2 verdict.

Before that happened, they provided a list of questions to the Judge.  I don't have a problem with Juries asking question of the case, and it happens regularly, but in this case there has been massive problems.

The BBC have the questions and his responses, which can be summarised as:
  1. It's a term in plain English
  2. [He must have been lost for words, given the question]
  3. [Sensible question]
  4. See #1
  5. WTF?! You can't simply make stuff up!
  6. There's an presumption of innocence, not guilt. The Prosecution have to convince you, not the Defendant
  7. See #6
  8. See #5
  9. Do you actually know what the job of a Jury is?
  10. That's completely irrelevant
So that's 1 sensible question out of 10. Oh dear!

From reading the Judge's responses, he must have been thinking to himself "Do these people know anything?!". After all, he is quoted as saying they showed a "fundamental deficit in understanding" of what they were supposed to do.

I guess this shows the basic flaw in jury trials: they're based on an assumption that the ordinary member of the public is reasonably intelligent. Clearly this assumption was invalid to at least some of the people that had been chosen to serve.

Of course, this makes you wonder if other juries have had similar questions, and if so, how have they decided that issue.

I still think that Jury trials are a good thing to have, even if it is for little else than for having the ability to pretty much turn around and say "I don't care if he would be guilty, this is complete bollocks".

There will be a re-trial starting next Monday.  Hopefully the next lot will do a better job.

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