After viewing several high-profile criminal trials recently on cable news, it has come to my attention that the time has come for a constitutional amendment to abandon the jury system and have all criminal defendants go before a judge.
The present-day jury system originated in medieval England in the 12th century. The main idea behind it was that the average person, which in those days was virtually everyone besides the king and the landed gentry, would have a better shot at getting a fair trial if persons of similar circumstance and background were determining the person’s guilt or innocence.
A noble idea for the time, the concept has become outmoded and is now a mere caricature of its original form. Finding 12 people who can agree on anything, let alone imposing the death penalty or a life sentence, is naive and unrealistic. Sequestered jurors, combative defense attorneys, confrontational prosecuting attorneys are the norm when that should be the exception.
Television is to blame for part of this, but some of it, in my opinion, is because the people involved just plain enjoy it. And what do the judges do? Not much but warm a chair. But then they have weighty matters to be concerned with, like off days and golf games (although I haven’t witnessed any of these things locally).
Of course, opposition to this would come from the legal profession (as one might expect), which might be financially impacted by the “new” speedy justice, and judges, who might not be overly enthused about being “on the hot seat” in their new, more important role. But in time, everyone would adjust and be asking themselves, “Why didn’t we do this sooner?”
Charles M. Hyder