In almost every jury case I have tried the judge informs the panel that our system of trial by jury is the best in the world. Is that really true? What does the judge base this assertion on? What are you not told about your jury service?
The way we do it is not the only way. In most countries, including democratic republics, the right to a jury trial is severely limited. Both civil and criminal cases may be decided by a single judge, a panel of judges or in some countries a jury composed of laypeople and professional judges. In some of the countries I have lived in the defense is free to argue unshackled by any rules of procedure to the judge and/or jury. What the lawyer can argue in the US, however, and what the jury can consider, are both severely limited.
Most of us who have ever watched a cop soap opera know that the lawyers get to participate in choosing the jury. Each side in a criminal case can challenge a certain number of jurors without any explanation to the judge. What results? The DA challenges all jurors who have any questions about the law. The defense gets rid of anyone who sounds like they are not brain dead. In the end most juries are composed of people who have no definite feelings about anything and who will gladly do whatever the judge tells them to do.
That's one of the biggest no-no's. It means trying to convince a jury that the law under which the defendant is being prosecuted is unjust. Never mind that we have a tradition in this country of ignoring unjust laws from the Boston Tea Party to the Fugitive Slave cases and so on. Now the judge tells the jury it has the duty to follow the law. What the judge does not tell the jurors and will not allow the defense attorney to argue is that the jury has the power, as opposed to the right, to ignore any law it considers unjust. These means the jury, who have already agreed to fawn over whatever the judge says, now has to put aside any doubts it has about the law.
No Appeals to Sympathy or Passion
Suppose your client stole a loaf of bread from the home of Bill Gates because he was starving to death. Charged correctly that is a felony offense of 1st degree burglary. Can the attorney argue the culprit was starving to death or that Gates would never have missed the loaf. Absolutely not! that would be appealing to the sympathy or passion of the jury.
No Talk of Punishment
Despite the jury's having been hand-cuffed in what they can do and think, perhaps the worst rule is that the jury cannot consider punishment. In other words we cannot tell the jury that if it votes to convict that man who stole the loaf of bread he will go to prison for 6 years. Under the circumstances most jurors would think the man was going to get a slap on the hand. Can the lawyer correct that misimpression? No way.
If you'd like to be tried by such a jury good luck to you. But that's what tries our defendants day after day in the US: people with no opinions, who can be led by the nose and who have no idea of the defendant's fate or their ability to protest an unjust law. In these matters it is sometimes said that everyone gets what they deserve. True in the sense that we have the justice system we deserve, I suppose because we are too ignorant or cowardly to do anything about it.
Our Rating is calculated using information the lawyer has included on their profile in addition to the information we collect from state bar associations and other organizations that license legal professionals. Attorneys who claim their profiles and provide Avvo with more information tend to have a higher rating than those who do not.
What determines Avvo Rating?
Experience & background
Years licensed, work experience, education
Legal community recognition
Peer endorsements, associations, awards
Legal thought leadership
Publications, speaking engagements
This lawyer was disciplined by a state licensing authority in .
Disciplinary information may not be comprehensive, or updated. We recommend that you always check a lawyer's disciplinary status with their respective state bar association before hiring them.