Friday, May 04, 2007


More Jury Duty, or, Damnit Judge! I'm a Scientist, not a Deciderer

Various people tell me "you're no scientist" (translation: "you like Times New Roman too much and Arial not enough"). Some even tell me "you think too much like a lawyer" (translation: "you watch too much Law and Order and Harvey Birdman and seem to think like the lawyers portrayed on those fine and oh-so-true-to-life shows" -- N.B. ... my girlfriend, an honest to goodness lawyer -- yes, some lawyers are honest -- never accuses me of thinking like a lawyer). But in fact, I think far more like a scientist (or more to the point, journal reviewer -- insert derogatory, embittered comment here ;) ) than anything else.

"How do you mean?", you say ...

To follow up on one of yesterday's posts -- what I really wanted to do with both the prosecutor's and defense's cases was send them back for minor revisions (after which the editor, er, judge could have the option of deciding for himself that the concerns of us reviewers, er, jury, were satisfied and issuing a judgment or referring it back to us for further deliberation).

Considering the prosecution's case as a paper entitled "The Defendant Did the Crime: Proof Beyond a Reasonable Doubt", as a reviewer, I'd have to say "please resubmit for re-review following minor revisions". Considering the defense as a paper entitled "The Doubts You Have as to the Defendant's Guilt are Reasonable", again, I'd have to send the paper back with "please resubmit for re-review following minor revisions".

Unfortunately, as a juror, you have no such option. You can rule innocent (reject the prosecution's paper as an insufficiently complete study), you can rule guilty (accept the paper), you can rule guilty on a lessor included charge (the closest academic analogy would be "please resubmit this paper to a more germane journal such as [X]" -- but unlike in academia where the paper would be reviewed again -- by you and your colleagues who also would review it there -- you're skipping that step and just accepting it in the other journal, so to speak, which would have been a forgone conclusion anyway), you can even have a hung jury resulting in a mistrial ("please resubmit this paper following major revisions", by which time the paper would need to have an entirely separate review). But you have no option of referring the case back to the attorneys for minor revisions -- additional evidence and argument -- and then picking up where you left off, without the case having to go to another trial.

Fortunately, I dodged the bullet on the responsibility of having to contribute to a decision where the desired option AFAIC was not in the instructions. But why don't we have this option in the instructions? I talked with an academic friend of mine in another field (whose opinion of the notion of law in general, though, is less sanguine than mine, due to differing religious beliefs), and he agreed with me -- jurors need this option to be able to say "this is what we need from the attorney: if she cannot give that to us, we'll have to rule the other way, but if she can, she's won the case".

Do y'all agree with this? If so, how do we impliment this? Does only law need to change, or is a Constitutional ammendment required?

If not, maybe the fact that yesterday evening I discovered I had accidently worn my undershirt inside out that day -- something not very lawyerlike, but very scientist-like -- is a sign of something?

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