Since the 15th century, Lady Justice has often been depicted wearing a blindfold. The blindfold represents objectivity, in that justice is or should be meted out objectively, without fear or favor, regardless of money, wealth, power, or identity; blind justice and impartiality.
All over the world, you can see statues of Lady Justice brandishing a sword, holding a scale and wearing a blindfold. They are posted in front of Court buildings and their message is clear; Justice will prevail.
Why is Justice a woman we might ask? The answer is simple and surely provocative to some: Women, and especially mothers, seem to embody the core elements of justice around the world.
“The unity of everyday rules, justice and the law Wisdom
love and fair action
The capacity to punish without ostracizing and destroying
The just distribution and passing on of knowledge and power”
In 2008, a traveling exhibition called ‘’Cornucopia, Scale, Sword – Justice Is A Woman” focused on the history of justice looking at it from women`s perspectives over 23 000 years of human history. The female anatomy, woman’s social behaviour and her ways of thinking represented the symbols of justice.
The exhibition was comprised of twelve plates showing that even in the tyrannical epochs of history, such as the era of witch-hunting or national socialism, the longing and hope for a peaceful, nonviolent and loving world never vanished.
“We need this hope as much as we need all the abilities of women in politics and all their motherliness. And we are hoping for a world in which this motherliness will be a capacity that more and more men can appreciate. A long and varied order of symbols of good hope accompanies this idea of justice.”
Having said that, it is interesting to note that justice all over the world has been rendered by more men than women. We could almost say that it used to be a boys’ Club. There are less women offenders, but way more men working in the legal profession and making decisions affecting the Justice system.
In recent years, in Canada and the US, statistics indicate that as many women as men graduated from law school so we will see a change in the fabric of the legal system, accordingly. In 2014, it was reported in a New York Times blog that women lawyers and judges earned about 82 percent of what their male counterparts made. It is improving, but still unfair.
President Obama has appointed 129 female judges, which is more than any President to date, but to obtain true gender diversity, the number of women in the federal judiciary, including the Supreme Court, should be increased.
Upon the confirmation of Associate Justice Elena Kagan, the Supreme Court counts three women among its nine Justices for the first time in history, still only one-third of the members of that Court. Only four of the 112 Justices ever to serve on the highest court in the land have been women.
Thirty-three percent of active United States district (or trial) court judges are women. There are still 7 district courts around the country where there has never been a female judge. Gender disparity exists in many fields and it has been prevalent in the justice system.
We can deduct from these facts that using a woman as the emblem of Justice might have been like using an attractive female to sell a product like a car, but mostly to men. There is also some irony in the fact that the motherly image of Lady Justice wanting fair and impartial proceedings does not equate with statistics indicating that the ones leading lynch mobs, especially against high-profile defendants, are mostly women who ostracize and destroy. But of course, Lady Justice is not the girl next door, but an idealized version of fairness, not to mention the descendant of the Roman Goddess Justitia.
Colonel Sanders was the face of his own food chain, and he did not need a woman to sell his chicken. But the Justice system chose to perpetuate this female imagery because it works; it gives the impression of fairness and impartiality. Once you buy a car, the attractive woman is not going to come with it, so when a judge renders a verdict, Lady Justice might not be coming along for the ride either.
In fact, we might as well replace the statues by the ones found in Las Vegas of Lady Luck.
Lady Luck is a symbol of a woman bringing good or bad fortune. When people gamble, they often say Lady Luck was against us and we lost the game. Well it seems more and more that with the actual jury system, trials have become like the Wheel of Fortune with Vanna White as Lady Luck.
The death penalty has become a fatal lottery and picking jurors is like choosing lottery numbers; you could win big or lose it all for no apparent reason.
Juries play a crucial role in our justice system. Their ‘alleged’ collective wisdom and experience are the reason they serve as representatives of the public in dispensing justice. Their role goes beyond decision-making. It is supposed to also reinforce the confidence we have in the integrity of our system.
“The American jury system was inspired by medieval England, where panels of 12 “free and lawful” men in each community were summoned to help the king do justice. For centuries these panels based their decisions on what they knew of local wrongdoing. When England became more populous, these jurors usually could not rely on neighborhood gossip and increasingly based their decisions on evidence they heard in court. By the time the American legal system absorbed the British model, U.S. jurors were admonished to ignore anything they might know about the case and decide the facts solely on the evidence presented in court.”
The British considered jury trials as a mean against oppressive actions by the king, but there was a more practical reason for retaining trial by jury. English law contained harsh penalties, including the death penalty for relatively petty crimes. British juries served to soften the impact of this by acquitting defendants or finding them guilty of lesser crime.
The system has evolved through the years but is still considered a defense against the power held by the crown.
The right of trial by jury appears more popular than it is in reality. In practice, the majority of accused do not invoke their right to a jury trial. To avoid a heavy punishment, they enter a plea with the prosecutor. They get a reduced sentence for pleading guilty to a lesser offense.
The prosecution often agrees to plea bargains because it is spared the trouble, expense, and uncertainty of going to trial. In many jurisdictions more than 9 out of 10 prosecutions are resolved in this way, without a jury trial.
It is a solution for a defendant stuck with a public defender who is inexperienced, overworked, and inclined to settle the matter by a plea bargain rather than fight it out before a jury. The prosecution typically has far more money than the defense to spend on investigating the case, analyzing the evidence, and checking out prospective jurors. The result is defendants not leaning toward the right to trial by jury because it seems to promise more than it delivers in terms of justice.
Cases of public concern
The Supreme Court of Canada has stated that juries provide a means by which the public increases its knowledge of the criminal justice system, thereby ensuring “societal trust in the system as a whole.” Societal trust is fundamental, and is best served by permitting access to the reasons for a jury verdict in cases of public concern.
All the jurors must agree on the decision or verdict. It means that their decision must be unanimous. If they cannot all agree, the judge may discharge the jury and direct a new jury to be enlisted for a new trial. After a trial, no juror is allowed to tell other people about the discussions that took place in the jury room.
A jury in a civil case is slightly different. It has, for example, only six jurors, and the decision does not have to be unanimous, as long as five of them agree on the verdict.
In Canada, section 649 of the Criminal Code makes it an offence for a juror to disclose “any information relating to the proceedings of the jury when it was absent from the courtroom that was not subsequently disclosed in open court.” This prohibition has prevented the public from knowing about the reasons for a jury’s decision, and the process by which it was reached.
The law prevents members of the media from interviewing jury members following conclusion of a trial, a common feature of high-profile cases in the United States.
The reason the jury cannot speak to the press in Canada, is to ensure full and frank debate by jurors without fear that disclosure of their deliberations might hold a juror up to ridicule or contempt. Second, is the need to ensure the privacy of jurors, and keep them free from censure or any form of harassment.
In the US, jurors can speak to the media if they chose to do so and can write books and even profit from their jury duty if they wait 90 days after the verdict.
The press is very upset in Canada because they believe that it infringes on the Charter of rights of the media to freedom of press. They claim that jury interviews in the United States have not harmed the jury process. I strongly disagree with this statement.
In the United States, some judges, knowing the intense interest from the media, arrange for jurors to speak to journalists in a press-conference after a trial. Reporters are able to ask questions without tracking jurors down in their homes or offices, which some jurors might regard as harassment.
Other courts try to prevent journalist-juror contact. Some use anonymous juries, meaning that jurors are identified only by number. A court reporter from Virginia, said judges in her area prohibit the naming or photographing of jurors. When the trial ends, jurors are escorted to their cars, and no one can leave the courtroom until all the jurors had departed. It is a very good idea in my opinion.
Judges usually tell jurors that they are not required to talk to anyone about their experiences, but that they have a right to speak. Many reporters have succeeded in getting jurors to give interviews about their impressions of a case and why a particular verdict was reached.
Scholars, judges, and other observers of the jury system point to a series of problems posed by modern developments that could not have been imagined by the statesmen who enshrined the right to trial by jury in the Bill of Rights. You think?
In 12 Angry Men, a classic Hollywood film, the deliberations inside a jury room take center stage. Henry Fonda, as juror number 8, holds out under pressure against conviction of a teenage Hispanic boy charged with killing his father, slowly converting the other jurors through tense, thrilling deliberations to a verdict of not guilty.
Recently, we had the case of one holdout juror disagreeing with giving the death penalty to a Hispanic woman named Jodi Arias. Contrary to the movie, this lady did not convert the other jurors and was basically harassed in the hope she would fold; the other jurors tried to have her thrown out and asked the judge to dismiss her. Nowadays, with social media and the lynch mob mentality that prevails, 1 juror does not stand a chance against the other 11. They want to please the majority and give ‘justice’ to the victim’s family while being hailed as heroes.
Is a jury trial the best way to arrive at justice when a crime occurs? In their lifetimes, 29 percent of adult Americans have served on a jury. It is a civic duty, but too many people view it as a costly obligation to be avoided at all costs. Jury duty is supposed to be something you do not for money, but as a good citizen. And in my opinion, you should never profit from it, except with your regular salary or per diem.
So many people were trying to avoid jury duty that some judges in Quebec, Canada decided to send warrants and summon people in front of the court to get them to explain why they did not show up. It is to avoid chronic absenteeism. The province also raised juror fees from $25 to $90 a day and offers counselling for jurors if the trial was particularly emotional.
Jury of your peers
A small fraction of the hundreds of thousands of cases that make their way through Canadian courts result in jury trials. In criminal law, they are reserved for only the most serious of offences, such as murder. But they are not comprised of people who know the defendant’s customs, culture or story. They choose people at random from a very limited pool of citizens who are more often than not, totally ignorant of the law except for watching legal or crime TV shows.
Many jurors admit not understanding the instructions given by the judge before deliberations.
When I examined some high profile trials in the US, I realized that they were not the slam-dunk cases portrayed by the media. And in almost every instance, the jury was out of the loop and strayed from the rules.
“This comical town formerly known as Redwood City has earned a new name: Bozo City. What a great place to see judges and prosecutors in bright, red noses, water squirting from their lapels — wrecking everything they touch. “
— Andrea Peyser, New York Post
This case was circumstantial at best and the remaining jurors did not sound very astute. They kept bringing up his demeanor, which is not to be taken into consideration during deliberations and some of them were frankly pissed at him. They admitted not being able to connect the dots, but his ‘coldness’ and the fact that he had a mistress convinced them of his guilt. He did not protect his wife and child they said; totally off the mark.
They got a lucrative book deal and profited from the case. They gave a lot of interviews and were cheered by the crowd. Even if the judge did not allow cameras in the courtroom, the media campaign had already done too much damage to give Peterson a fair shake.
A grandmother and retired secretary was booted out the jury pool for saying that she wanted to infiltrate the jury to find Peterson guilty “Anyone who would defend a wife-killer and a child molester deserves to lose.”
During voir dire, the prosecutor got rid of a prospective juror because she had prejudged Peterson innocent. The judge had to remind him that you can’t prejudge innocence because according to the law, you are presumed innocent.
The initial jury foreperson, Gregory Jackson, was a trained physician and lawyer who kept busy taking copious notes, but was dismissed and replaced by a firefighter who, even according to Nancy Grace, didn’t seem to pay any attention to the proceedings during the trial. The good doctor asked to be dismissed because he ‘didn’t feel comfortable’ anymore after his group demanded to have him replaced.
According to juror 8, if this foreman had stayed on, it would have been a hung jury. One of the jurors nicknamed Strawberry Shortcake by the media (sic) wrote to Peterson in jail and subsequently sold his letters, and she is mentioned in Peterson’s appeal because she lied on her jury questionnaire. She was mentally unstable and ended up doing a stint in a psychiatric hospital. Click here to read an interesting take on Jury tampering in this case.
“When I took the oath, I understood it to mean that I needed to be able to weigh both sides fairly, openly, and given what’s transpired, my individual ability to do that, I think, has been compromised to a degree that I would never know personally whether or not I was giving the community’s verdict, the popular verdict, the expected verdict, the verdict that might — I don’t know — produce the best book.”
— jury foreperson, Gregory Jackson
There is a new documentary on HBO called Captivated: The trials of Pamela Smart. It is an objective view of the first gavel to gavel televised trial in the States. In it, you can hear juror 13 attempting to work through the testimony as it is presented. Very troubling, because it is obvious that the media along with the force of a popular presumption of guilt also played a role in this case. Commenting on a “media circus” that made her and the other jurors “feel like a bug in a glass jar,” this woman attempts to reach a verdict free from that influence. Did she succeed? The documentary lets viewers come up with their own conclusions
This group was less talkative, but what they finally disclosed was interesting to say the least. The jury verdict was guilty on all counts, but there was a mixture of votes. On the single count of murder, the jurors needed a unanimous decision. Two jurors had voted that Diane was not guilty of attempted murder or first-degree assault, but ended up voting to convict her of murder. It made no sense.
The judge had told them to continue on to force a verdict. They were never polled after the guilty verdict. One of the jurors finally admitted that they started as a group and finished as a group. What was that?
He also said “we don’t want to put pressure on the group, we don’t want to end up bickering. We’ve become friends. I go fishing with a juror’s husband. I have plans to go hunting with the husband of one of the alternates.” They brought cakes and cookies and became friends so they were not going to fight over this. What about reasonable doubt in this case?
The presence of Ann Rule in the courtroom to take notes for her new book could only be added pressure on the jury.
After he was exonerated, a couple of jurors admitted that they had judged his flat affect and thought he was cold and unfeeling. It contributed to the guilty verdict because there was absolutely no evidence in the case. At least, one of the female jurors recognized her mistake and apologized afterwards.
The evidence that cleared Morton’s name had to be collected by a member of his own family. This is how biased the investigation was; they never retrieved a bloody Bandana left behind by the killer during his escape through the back of the house. The jurors didn’t have much to work with and the prosecution refused to allow at trial, the fact that Morton’s son who witnessed the crime, had described the man to the police and told them in no uncertain terms that his dad was not there. Also, the victim’s credit card was used after her death and a cheque was cashed.
Former district attorney Ken Anderson ‘apologized’ to Morton after having been accused of withholding evidence in the case.
This Texas defendant now on death row, was catapulted into a murder case by a very ambitious prosecutor who stopped at nothing to find her guilty. He had the media and the jurors in his pocket.
The jurors watched a silly string video 8 or 9 times and it was a decisive factor in their deliberations. Are you kidding?
One juror wrote to the judge afterwards to say he felt pressured by other jurors. He regretted his decision and thought that some of the photos of Darlie’s injuries would have changed his vote, had they been shown at trial. Her attorney submitted them but they were not shown for some reason. Another juror declared after the trial that Darlie didn’t prove she was innocent. How is that for not understanding the concept of the defense not having to prove their client’s innocence?
Attorney Vincent Bugliosi referred to the jurors as being part of the ‘mental poverty program’. But in fact, because the trial was held in LA and not wealthy Santa Monica, these jurors had a huge distrust towards the cops and the state. So they brought their own prejudices and experiences to the table and did not see fit to declare him guilty. If he was tried in an affluent area, OJ, in spite of his popularity, would probably not have walked.
One juror said Simpson might be guilty, but the evidence presented to the jurors wasn’t enough to put him behind bars. “On the evidence that they gave me to evaluate, it was crooked by the cops. The evidence given to me to look at, I could not convict. Did he do it? Maybe, maybe not.” According to the jurors, the food they were served was good and they saw Johnny Cochran as the star of the show.
With her dream team and the help of a jury consultant, this little lady walked because the jurors hand-picked for this task were not going to sentence anyone to death without solid evidence. The prosecution should have never charged this girl with the death penalty to begin with; it was a huge mistake. And their case was based on the fact that she lied so it left no charges that could be used by this type of jury to find her guilty of something else.
The only juror to show her face in the media after the verdict mentioned her disdain for Nancy Grace. The pro-prosecution jurors are usually the ones in awe of HLN.
This jury was not the luck of the draw. It was hand-picked with a goal in mind and it worked. Money talks.
During deliberations, the jurors listened to a taped conversation between detective Saldate and Debbie’s sister. It was not played in court during the trial but found its way into the jury room. It was not about evidence, but total character assassination from a jealous sister who was told Debbie had confessed and believed it. The jurors said that the tape convinced them of her guilt. If she could be so manipulative with her own family, she had to be guilty. Amazing, where is the common sense?
Why did they take the word of a detective who had not taped the alleged confession or could not produce a signed copy? Once again, the lack of emotions displayed by Milke and caused by medications more than likely influenced their decision.
This week, one holdout juror saved the life of a defendant on trial for the murder of Etan Patz. He could not vote to convict Pedro Hernandez, 54, a disabled factory worker from New Jersey, of murder and kidnapping and he declared “Ultimately I couldn’t find enough evidence that was not circumstantial to convict, I couldn’t get there.”
The trial, held in Manhattan, was based on confessions Hernandez gave 33 years after Etan vanished while walking to a school bus. It was a high profile case and there is a movie on the subject on Netflix. The prosecution said his admission to the police proved his guilt; the defense called it a fiction invented under pressure from the police by a man with a weak and troubled mind. Click here to read about false confessions and how the holdout juror, Adam Sirois, came to this conclusion.
I am shocked that only one juror came to this conclusion or that Hernandez was ever tried for this case.
As an indigent defendant who almost holds the record for longest stay in jail before going on trial, Miss Arias could only play the lottery when it came to jurors. The jury pool was poisoned by the media and Arizona does not sequester jurors to ‘save money’. They do not mind spending millions for two trials, but a few hotel rooms are not to be added to the budget.
She had no dream team and the Arizona jurors impaneled for her case were death qualified, cocked and loaded.
After the first verdict, the jurors did not even know that the judge was not going to accept their verdict and try her again to obtain the death penalty.
The small group that practically lived on HLN and made friends with the family and supporters of Travis Alexander, were so twisted and biased that it was frankly scary. It made you want to nullify the jury system right then and there.
The second trial took the cake, literally. The foreman actually contacted a blogger himself to ask for an interview; the most prosecution oriented one who was in the courtroom. Not ABC, NBC or a semi-respectable network for his first interview. He went for the underbelly of journalism. The back alley of reporting, and it makes you wonder if he was on social media the whole time.
This man declared that Arias was abused, but did not see mitigation there. He totally went off the rail and acted like he was not in the penalty retrial, but the first trial. He speculated about her motives and premeditation. A lady juror actually diagnosed Arias as a sociopath, even if she was not diagnosed as such by any professional during the trial.
A young grammatically challenged female juror said Arias was a bad person and a liar, but not a word about porngate and the lies perpetuated by the state. Yikes! They were ‘disappointed because they could not deliver the death penalty on a silver platter to the victim’s family.’ They partied with members of the family, the media and the prosecution. Some of them showed up dressed in blue for the sentencing to support the family. Even the court reporter was wearing blue that day and I hope it is a fluke because the misconduct for appeal will be piling up.
They did everything they were not supposed to do as jurors. And they had the gall to criticize the holdout juror whose interview was stellar and totally legit. She did not stray from any of the principles of her jury duty. In fact, she is the only one who noticed while reading the defendant’s journals, how deep her depression and mood swings were.
It is probably high time to have professional jurors or to improve the process. We need citizens who understand the instructions and who can remain objective in spite of a media campaign.
As a prosecutor or a juror, you cannot get close to the victim’s family or any supporters. The same rule goes for detectives on the case. This was determined by a review on how to avoid wrongful convictions.
Abolishing the death penalty in the US would go a long way to level the playing field with jurors. Empaneling a ‘death penalty qualified’ jury is stacking the deck against a defendant to begin with. We usually end up with a lot of angry men and women.
This is a huge mistake to want to give justice at all costs. Jury duty is not about making friends and pleasing a group of people. It should be impartial and anonymous. And prosecutors and detectives know better than to socialize with a victim’s family.
It might be a good idea to have an arbitrator in the deliberation room to guide the jurors when they stray from the rules. If they ask a juror how she would feel if the victim was her son, this person could explain that it is not acceptable and represents emotional blackmail and making it personal.
If someone starts speculating, the impartial agent could put a stop to it. Jurors seem to stray continuously from the guidelines and it is never mentioned by the sellout press or media.
Next time we receive a jury summons, we might want to think twice before avoiding it. The ones who end up occupying the spot in our place are pretty scary and could be deliberating on a case affecting a member of our own family. Time to wake up and take this seriously. Lady Luck should go back to Vegas and let Lady Justice put back her blindfold.
Note: I am not judging the guilt or innocence of the cases mentioned, but the results obtained through an ineffective and uninformed jury. I am also quoting from several articles and research in the above article.
Examples of Social Media being a factor at trial:
In Detroit, a 20-year-old juror was removed from jury for commenting on her Facebook page that she could not wait to find the defendant guilty. The trial was not over and the defense had not yet started its presentation of the case.
In England, a 28-year-old woman juror posted comments on Facebook about how many of her colleagues thought the defendant was guilty. She appeared in front of a judge because a concerned private citizen sounded the alarm.
A Moncton judge had to declare a mistrial in the first-degree murder trial of Fred Prosser over comments one of the jurors posted on a Facebook site. The victim’s family had visited some Facebook pages after the 12-person jury was selected, and cross-referenced the names of the jurors.
The family discovered that juror No. 12 was a member of an anti-Prosser group and had posted comments on the site. They knew what it would mean on appeal.