LETTER: In defence of the jury system

The jury system is many things, but inefficient is not one of them.

Re: “Eight problems with the jury system”

Mr. Abrahams brought forth eight items that he views as “problems” with our jury system in Canada, which are not really problems but statements of personal belief. While he made many errors, I will only touch on the more egregious.

Despite his protestations that the jury system is inefficient, he offers no alternative other than a government appointed judge. The jury system was created to prevent abuses from government interference and to ensure that it was in fact, the people, and not the government, that decided the fates of their fellow citizens.

He also seems to believe that because a person knows very little about law, they cannot make a decision in a matter brought before the court. And in fact, this point has been argued many times, and never proven that jurors are less capable of understanding facts than judges who have a legal background.

He makes the absurd statement that a jury could be fooled by police and the Crown conspiring and sending an innocent person to jail, yet seems oblivious to the idea that a judge could fall for the same conspiracy. Which would be easier to fool one person or 12?

Mr. Abrahams would also like us to believe that judges are solely responsible for what evidence is brought before the jury. This is only partially true. The Supreme Court elevated the trial judge’s exclusionary discretion to constitutional stature, pronouncing that Section 11(d) of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedom’s guarantee of a fair trial for an accused encompasses within it an exclusionary discretion for a trial judge to exclude technically admissible Crown evidence whenever this is required to preserve a fair trial.

He also asked why subject 12 innocent people to listen to a defence attorney who really believes his client to be guilty, and allow a guilty person to go free after committing a horrendous crime? My answer is the one innocent person who goes free because of a jury trial. While compiling his highly influential set of books on English common law, William Blackstone expressed the famous ratio this way: All presumptive evidence of felony should be admitted cautiously, for the law holds it is better that ten guilty persons escape than that one innocent party suffer.

The jury system serves a number of significant purposes. First, the jury serves as an outstanding fact finder because of its variety of experiences and because it works co-operatively. Second, the jury acts as the “conscience of the community,” owing to its representative quality, bringing to bear the broader community’s sense of justice and fairness. Third, the jury acts as the citizen’s final fortification against government’s potentially oppressive laws and potentially oppressive enforcement of the law.

The jury system is many things, but inefficient is not one of them.

Robert Leggett, Nelson

 

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