Monday, February 25, 2008

The 7th Amendment

The 7th Amendment

“ In Suits at common law, where the value in controversy shall exceed twenty dollars, the right of trial by jury shall be preserved, and no fact tried by a jury, shall be otherwise re-examined in any Court of the United States, than according to the rules of the common law. ”

If that doesn’t make for some good bedtime reading.

I would like to bring up a topic having to do with juries. I recently got a book on the Scott Peterson trial. The book is “We, the Jury” written by seven of the jurors that found Scott Peterson guilty of killing his pregnant wife. The same jurors subsequently sentenced him to death.

What you will hear from me will be full of contradictions. I am a free speech and free enterprise advocate. However, I see a dark cloud when a fair, impartial jury of one’s peers financially profits from their involvement in the legal system.

I know that police, prosecutors, defense attorneys all write books and profit from their involvement with high profile cases. I can’t think of anyone involved in the O J Simpson trial who didn’t write a book. A search on Amazon found 278 books. These were written by various members of the Goldman family, Detective Mark Furman, attorneys Alan Dershowitz and Robert Shaprio and prosecutors Marcia Clark and Christopher Dardin.
I actually have an ethical problem with the other players in the legal system profiting from the tragedy and based on their positions held in the public trust. But today, I am going to harp on the juries.

Jurors are pulled from their anonymous existence in our community when the trial starts. When it is over they silently fade back into society. In a case like Peterson's, the jurors have the final say between freedom and death. The best we as a civilization can hope for in a decision of this magnitude is that the deciders will be impartial and influenced only be the evidence presented. Being on a jury that dished out the death penalty certainly would make for higher profile and high profits than a life sentence or even a finding of not-guilty.

I will be the first to admit that my opinions about free enterprise and free speech are contradictory to my ethical problem raised here…so sue me.