The idea of “a jury of one’s peers” is an interesting concept. According to the 6th Amendment, all citizens have a constitutional right to a trial by jury, with an impartial jury. All defendants also have a guaranteed right to a “jury of one’s peers.” This is presumed to mean a diverse jury, one that represents the population. However, there are no guidelines or regulations for paneling a jury. Lawyers on both sides are allowed to dismiss jurors–either for cause, meaning for a specific reason or as a peremptory challenge. There is no law requiring a jury to have a certain number of women or minorities which can be detrimental in certain cases, for example when a black defendant has an all-white jury like Rodney Reed, the man on death row recently granted a stay of execution or when a white jury acquits a police officer for shooting an unarmed black man.
However, the wording “one’s peers” suggests people exactly like the defendant. But that is not always not a good thing. For a minority, it would be beneficial to have a jury of minorities that can sympathize with the minority experience. But on the flip side, it means a white police officer would have a jury of white cops. Or a wife-beater would have a jury of wife-beaters. Instead, there should be rules in place about the makeup of the jury pool. A jury of one’s peers should accurately represent the population, race-wise and gender-wise. The jury decides the future of a person and it is easy for a juror to lie about having racial prejudice or gender-bias when asked. Furthermore, jurors are selected based on people who are registered to vote. Many people are not registered to vote, and furthermore the people who do jury duty are often only people who have time for jury duty such as older retired people. This further skews the data.
Jurors are only supposed to look at the facts of the case, but it is impossible for a human to completely be impartial and separate their past experiences and emotions from the facts of the case when deciding the fate of someone’s life. A female juror will likely look at someone accused of sexual assault with more scrutiny than a man would because they would be more likely to sympathize with the victim. While a male juror may be more likely to sympathize with the man on trial by imagining himself in that position. Of course, this is a generalization and simplification, but think about if you were a juror and the defendant was the same race as you or the same gender or sexuality as you and then if the victim was, that would likely make you look at the case differently. The jury selection process needs to be different and there needs to be requirements about which people make up each jury pool.
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