Contempt For Jury Duty Leads to Contempt Of Court

9 07 2007

Dave Berry once famously said that the sixth amendment entitled you to a jury trial “before a jury of people too stupid to get out of jury duty”. I have long said that the jury trial system, whilst it is definitely the only fair and equitable way to hold trials, is in serious need of an overhaul. Whether we need to actually force employers, by law, to pay people who are called up for jury duty or we need to pay jurors directly, something needs to be done to stop people wanting to get out of jury duty. I know that the system is based on the idea of “civil duty” but that concept comes last on people’s priorities, and the almighty dollar normally comes closer to the top. I’d go further and say for most it is top.

As if to illustrate the problem, we have the case of the Muslim juror who used a hijab to conceal the fact that she was listening to an MP3 player during the trial. The incident has once again brought up the issue of the hijab’s place in western secular society, however I don’t think that’s at all relevant. If, instead, someone had smuggled an MP3 player in their underwear, would we ban underwear?

The important point, however, is that the young lady in question, who could face jail time for contempt of court, was trying to get out of jury duty consistently and was an unwilling participant in the process. This is the problem that needs to be addressed, not the issue of whether she should have been allowed to wear the hijab. Quite frankly, I hope she does get jail time, because it sends the message that jury duty is important. It is very serious, because had she not been caught, and had the defendant later found out, he probably would have been successful on appeal. A guilty man would be walking free.

Did anyone else find the judge suspecting he heard “tinny music” rather funny?



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