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NSCL  Not So Common Law

May Presentation


Trial by jury is fundamental to our criminal justice system and is a constitutionally protected right. We expect 12 ordinary citizens, untrained in the law, to come into a courtroom and listen to the recounting of events about which they know nothing, involving people with whom they have no familiarity, and then impartially make a decision about whether someone has committed a crime.

Then, as happened in a recent case, there is no dispute that a nonindigenous farmer shoots and kills an indigenous man at close range. By any reasonable account it was a wrongful killing that was either intentional or negligent. However, an “all white” jury acquits the farmer.

Did racial bias play a role in the acquittal? How can one be tried a jury of their peers when no one on that jury shares your ethnicity or gender? Why do we use juries anyway? Is there any advantage in using an ancient practice in modern justice? How do we decide who should sit on a jury?

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