Wednesday, December 24, 2003

Juries... group dynamics... traumatic stress...

As you know, the Malvo jury yesterday returned their decision in the sentencing portion of the recent trial in Chesapeake. As noted in several news reports, the jury did not reach their decision easily. And, to boot, they're getting second guessed and analyzed to death (pardon the pun). The jury, according to reports, was "split."

I can only imagine (after all, I wasn't there)...

I guess the first thing we need to acknowledge: whether we agree or not with the verdict and the jury's subsequent sentencing decision, the American process puts these decisions in the hands of twelve citizens. We empower them to make the decision, and we hope they will do it in the best way they can.

The system's not perfect, surely. I doubt we give juries training in how to use meeting management tools or training in group dynamics. But, what we have is twelve average citizens doing the best job they can.

Here's a bit that suggests "More than 7 people in a group find it difficult to make a decision based on consensus. Instead, the group is likely to be dominated by an individual whose will will prevail." I'm certainly not suggesting that's the case with the Malvo jury. I am, however, suggesting that our system, as it is, isn't perfect, but it is what we have.

Jury stress is real. And, jury stress is something which we ought to examine and something we ought to do in order to help jurors. The stress from serving on a jury can linger. Experts have made suggestions to jurors so they can better handle stress.

All-in-all, I am glad to live here in America where we have a judicial system which we trust and, while fellow citizens and pundits may not agree with the decisions rendered, it's a fair shake to the accused.

((Look here for further info on jury stress.))

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