The headline implies that juries are ‘sub-par’, whereas in fact what the people quoted say is that it’s public perception that they are sub-par because of their make-up, and it’s that perception that is undermining the public trust in justice. The article’s headline is in effect feeding that mistrust. Decent journalism would look at whether there is in fact any reason to think that these juries are ‘sub-par’ and whether they get the verdicts wrong. In the MacDonald case, there certainly can’t be any tenable suggestion that they ‘got it wrong’. What is at fault here is not the juries, it’s the trial system where truth has become secondary to the game between the lawyers.
The above is a link sent to me along with comments about the linked article published today. I totally agree with the correspondent's comments. In fact, sorry to say, I saw the article and moved on after having only a quick look at it, seeing the MacDonald case, the public poll mentioned, and mistakenly considered it was an simply another attack on Juries - the impression raised by the headline. Putting the obviously correct conclusions mentioned by the comments above to one side, and since having read the article clearly - I think there are a couple of other issues that show a worrying perception as to the value Jurors bring. There are three types mentioned, the professionals - along with the claim that they are being too easily excused, the elderly, and the unemployed.
I need to express concern with the idea of professional jurors and so forth, or the need for professionals to serve on the jury as some kind of necessity. That is the perception, that a Jury led by the use of 'professionals' as somehow part of an 'elite,' would be best able to contribute to just decisions in complicated or lengthy cases, indeed any type of case. Noting that Ewen McDonald's case was 'mentioned' I think the very core of the idea of Juries has been that they are to be made up of people from across the board, with experiences across the board. A professional person from Christchurch doesn't bring with his or herself some special formula raised from the fact they are professional person rather than a tradesman, however they may bring insights or points of discussion different from those of the trades person - both of which contribute to the make up of a sound Jury well capable of doing its job. Similarly, is a 50 year old man, made recently redundant and therefore unemployed unable to contribute from their own life experiences? Of course he is, and those experiences may well be more in depth and complex compared to the 31 year old professional who may well be considered a late 'maturer' by his workmates or family. Its the very essence of a Jury from all walks of life and differing ages that gives it the optimum chance of delivering a just verdict, again the original design considered hundreds of years ago.
On the same note what 'deficiency' is expected of a 67 year old woman who may had a professional career, or another being a housewife who raised 5 children, or the 62 year old that retired early because of poor health, lifestyle choice, or because they'd been able to do so because of a successful occupation - all of whom could be described, as in the article, as 'elderly' or 'unemployed.' I think the article drove at key issues that could also undermine any Jury that wasn't seen as relatively youthful, employed, and professional. A dock side worker may somehow understand a little more about the consequences of an altercation that led to a street brawl, and possibly a death, than perhaps a person who is anti rugby because they believe it is a violent sport. It is exactly those differences, added to age, type of employment, experience or retirement that are fundamental in representing the public or in other language comprise a group of 12 who are ostensibly the 'peers' of an accused and the public in general.
I can say from some experience it is very hard to have staff excused from Jury service, and the type of staff I'm talking about are not well educated, but equally not unworldly having come down in the last shower. I think the article headline and some of the 'professional' comments are equally disturbing and alienating from the idea of what a jury should comprise - normal everyday people who lead normal every day lives, perhaps working, perhaps not but each with their own unique experiences, tasked with common sense to decide on the facts guilt or innocence beyond reasonable doubt.