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LETTER OF THE DAY - Jury duty should not be mandatory

Published:Tuesday | June 10, 2014 | 12:00 AM


History has taught that it is counterproductive to invoke a penalty, or the threat thereof, in order to get a person to carry out any act against that person's will.

The mere existence of a law does not ensure compliance, and persons are less likely to adhere to it if they think it is unfair, irrational, or places undue burden on them.

While forcing persons to become jurors may be expedient, there is no guarantee that this will improve the outcome of justice. When the sole breadwinner in a household, or a business person, is forced into the service of the State, how can we be sure that such a disgruntled person will be concerned about a case from which they do not foresee any real benefit?

Preoccupied with the immediate demands of their own challenging situation, there are likely to be distractions from matters salient to the deliberation process, thereby compromising the quality of that person's input. As any psychologist will confirm, individuals are far more concerned about their immediate needs than those of others, or in this case, those of the justice system.


If it is not practical to have cases decided by a judge, then why not have persons volunteer or use those in the employment of the State as jurors? Don't forget that persons called up for jury duty are in no way protected from their creditors, the mortgage companies, or the very Government to whom various taxes are payable?

The State should not use its power to force its citizens into its service simply because it can. In the end, the case is a matter between the Government of Jamaica and John Brown, and while the wider implications are for the society, no one should be forced to be an unwilling participant in the execution of justice.