We judge people. I try not to. Others try not to. But we all fail in this regard, in one way or another. If I had a nickel for every time someone told me that they expected me to be different, e.g., cockier, less nice, less approachable, etc., I would have A LOT OF nickels. In the criminal justice system, juries decide our cases. I love the jury system. Foreigners are often stunned that the jury’s verdict of acquittal cannot be reversed . . . that we trust our citizens with that much power. Here is one of the jury instructions that is read to every jury hearing a case:
(5) To sum up, it is your job to decide what the facts of the case are, to apply the law as I give it to you, and, in that way, to decide the case.
DUTIES OF JUDGE AND JURY
(1) Members of the jury, the evidence and arguments in this case are finished, and I will now instruct you on the law. That is, I will explain the law that applies to this case.
(2) Remember that you have taken an oath to return a true and just verdict, based only on the evidence and my instructions on the law. You must not let sympathy or prejudice influence your decision.
(3) As jurors, you must decide what the facts of this case are. This is your job, and nobody else’s. You must think about all the evidence and then decide what each piece of evidence means and how important you think it is. This includes whether you believe what each of the witnesses said. What you decide about any fact in this case is final.
(4) It is my duty to instruct you on the law. You must take the law as I give it to you. If a lawyer says something different about the law, follow what I say. At various times, I have already given you some instructions about the law. You must take all my instructions together as the law you are to follow. You should not pay attention to some instructions and ignore others.
Think about that –
As jurors, you must decide what the facts of this case are. This is your job, and nobody else’s.
What you decide about any fact in this case is final.
Not reversible by a judge who disagrees. Not appealable by a prosecutor who thinks that its the wrong decision. Not objectionable by an alleged victim or police officer who didn’t like it. No. Final.
A jury . . . 12 citizens . . . hearing, listening, feeling what is just and right. I get chills just thinking about it. This is the majesty of the jury trial.
-Neil Rockind, trial lawyer
Neil Rockind is a criminal defense trial lawyer whose concentrates his practice in the areas of Medical Marijuana defense and criminal defense trials. He has received many awards and honors, including past selections to Super Lawyers, the Top 100 Trials Lawyers, DBusiness Top Lawyers and the endorsement of the Marijuana Policy Project.