The Jury System and the Abuse it suffers


This page is not an attack on the intelligence and integrity of the individual jurors who sat at Scott's trial or any other trial for that matter. Jurors are selected at random from a pool of people that includes you and I in an attempt to bring in a measure of common sense and values from cross-section of the community. What follows is an example of how the good faith and intelligence of jurors can be manipulated by a system in which no one person is brave enough to put their name to a decision in case it's the wrong one.

The jury system as used in the British and American justice systems is touted as being the "best" system of determining guilt or innocence. Of course this is said mostly in countries that hold to the British or American system and this could even be so, if the spirit of the law were to prevail. In the current political climate, where Justice is something that only a fool would expect this side of heaven and rules are there to be bent as far as possible to gain an advantage, the jury system is open to great abuse by a prosecution out to gain a conviction at all costs. In a high profile case such as that of Scott Watson there are reputations to be made, promotions to be won, and also jobs to be saved.

To begin with a case is presented to the Crown law office by the police, where one would imagine that it would be reviewed in an open-minded way. This should be a cut out point, one of the checks and balances to keep an ambitious policeman from presenting a weak or nonexistent case to the court. If approved it then goes to a depositions hearing. But the depositions are not a trial and both prosecution and defense play their cards very close to their chests. The judge or JP's are only required to say if the crown has a case at all, not whether it is a good or bad one. And of course there is no requirement on the crown to take any notice of the results of a depositions ruling. It can, if the case is thrown out, rearrest the defendant on the court house steps and lay the charge directly into the high court, with the attendant publicity that this would entail. A number of cases have been thrown out at depositions and the ruling then disregarded by the police. No judge or JP wants to be overruled publicly and it is much safer to simply pass the case on.

The case then goes to trial in the high court. The court registrar selects a jury panel and requests their attendance. The smartest of these people immediately find a good reason why they should not be chosen. The panel is then left with those not quick enough to find a way out and those who actually want to be on the jury. Meanwhile the jury panel has been vetted by the police, not the court, the police. Remember them? They are the people who have laid the charges and really should have no role to play apart from presenting their evidence. As the jury is selected, any with convictions (and is this the only criteria?) are challenged and stood down. This removes any jurors who might have any actual experience of the way that the police force operates. Probably the only knowledge that the people who are left have would have been gleaned from television and novels, not the real world.

The jury is chosen. We now see that the people on it either actually want to be on it, Were not smart enough to avoid being on it, and really have no idea of how the system works. A fine start.

They see the defendant escorted into court by two and sometimes three burly prison guards. This must be a dangerous person to be so closely guarded. They are going to see this at least four times a day for the next three months, ample time to absorb the message. For all of this time they also get to see the "victims" or their families seated in their direct line of sight, with the associated tears and sorrow that is displayed. They are accompanied by four or five detectives to soothe their grief. The message, once again over three months, is that here are the brave and good police protecting the innocent victims of this foul fiend. The prosecution then opens its case. One would think that this should be set in stone by this stage, after all a man has been in prison for over a year now surely he is entitled to know just what he is supposed to have done and how.

The prosecution then calls over FIVE HUNDRED witnesses, few of whom have anything relevant to say regarding the alleged crime, but a number of them get to say things like " This man tried to pick me up" and when asked to describe the man say that it was someone six feet tall with a beard. That this description bears no resemblance to the defendant is said to be "for the jury to decide". The subliminal message is: This is a bad dude.

In this five hundred witnesses are most of the defence case as well. It is explained that this is because the prosecution must be evenhanded and fair, to present the good with the bad. But nobody tells the jury that this tactic also keeps the defence from speaking to these witnesses. The police may have spent eight hours talking to a witness to obtain a statement of one and a half pages. What might have been said during the rest of this time? No one will ever know. And once a person becomes a prosecution witness the defense is barred from asking him.

For three months the jury is subjected to the constant message that this is not a nice guy along with a healthy dose of boredom. Lost in there some where are both the prosecution and defense cases, scattered about like confetti. The prosecution closes its case and the defense opens. By this time the jury memberís lives have been on hold for ten weeks. Are they listening? Or are they in a state of overload? The defense case takes only four days. Size for size it does not compare with the prosecution for dramatic content. It canít be much of a defense, can it?

During all of this time the jury have been placed on their honour not to take any notice of anything that they have heard about the case other than what was heard in court. But after court is finished for the day they go home to relax, turn on the TV and are confronted with five to ten minutes of the highlights of the day in court. Little is broadcast of the cross-examinations or the finer points of the case. Just the "highlights" and a potted version of what went on that day. Does the juror say to himself "oh is that what they meant? I missed that bit." Can he really be expected not to absorb the atmosphere that is being generated? Can he also safely say that he formed no opinion when bombarded daily for a period of six months as the case was investigated by reports that always Included the fact that Scott Watsonís boat was at the centre of the inquiry.

The jury are then addressed by the prosecution, the defense and the judge in short order and sent away to ponder what they have heard. You would think that they would take with them a transcript of the trial. These people have, probably, no greater reserves of memory than anyone else and yet are expected to recall all of the evidence spoken over three months. Their decision is made on the impression left on their memory. What did that witness say? Who knows? They have also been told by the judge that they have a free hand with the evidence. They can disregard what they like and create any scenario that they wish with no repercussions on themselves. They have been given absolute power over a fellow human beingís life but bear not a bit of responsibility for their decision. There is no record kept of their deliberations. A judge must give reasons for any ruling he makes, and these reasons must be in writing. A jury who make, by far, a more important judgment leave no trace of their thinking in arriving at a verdict.

This lack of record then allows the legal system the latitude to almost fantasize in pronouncing sentence, in this case diagnosing the defendant as being psychotic although no evidence was presented to support this view, the only justification being the verdict. Once again, how was the verdict arrived at? No on knows.

Further down the legal road, in the appeal court both lawyers and judges ponder whether the jury thought this or that to no avail. There is no record. It is said to be for your own good that there is a video recording of your purchases of a hamburger, or petrol, or groceries, but in a matter of this importance the system keeps no record.


The Two Trip Theory

Defence Case

The Judiciary

Return to Homepage