The Grand Dilemma

The Grand Dilemma

There must be a fault in the judicial systems around the world if criminals are set free, never to be prosecuted again, and the innocent people are either locked up or put to eternal sleep. The judicial system in the US is based on a jury procedure, where mostly ordinary citizens get to decide the fate of the accused, while remaining absolutely unacquainted with him/her. When described in these terms this system seems a rather bizarre way of putting criminals behind bars, but in reality most citizens agree with the way the courts are being run today.

However, no matter how accepted the system is, not all people agree, as massive riots and protests that have arisen around the world after trials that people thought unfair.

The idea of the unbiased jury, who should decide on a verdict for the prosecuted based on the evidence provided by both the prosecution and the defense, has never been so corrupted as in the case of the grand jury.

A grand jury is composed of common citizens, randomly chosen, unknown and inaccessible to the public, who only face the prosecution in a secret proceeding to decide whether the accused is to be charged with a crime. This form of the jury allows the prosecution to influence the jury in closed environments, allow for more evidence maneuvering, as there is no defense to ensure that exculpatory evidence is presented side by side with the evidence that shows the guilt of the accused. The grand jury’s function ends when the person is either put to trial or set free, which is where the normal jury comes in. The trial jury is not so different from the grand jury, except for the fact that they are not inaccessible and are public knowledge, and thus are less likely to cave under the influence of any of the two sides during the trial, since the defense is present in the courtroom. The jury nonetheless acquires a fair share of adverse attributes. Some of them being, undisclosed prejudices, aggressiveness and discriminating beliefs. When the jury are being chose for the trial, around 1/3 of them is eliminated during pre-trial questioning, and yet one can never be sure that the jury disclosed all that they might hold against the prosecuted party. If during one of those elimination sessions a man were faced with a question if he has anything against black people, 100% surely he would answer, “No”. Would this answer be 100% true? We will never know, and the black man being prosecuted for theft, which he did or did not do, will already be a criminal in the mind of that man of the jury.

However there are also positive sides to the idea of a jury, which have been accurately described by one of my teachers, “If I was on trial, I would want to be judged by my fellow peers. By those people next door.” Of course this depends on each individual, as in to whose hands they would want to place their fate. Many people believe that having people just like themselves sitting as the jury on the trial, allows for more real perspectives and more understanding, nevertheless as I have already pointed out the jury might poses a certain disposition to the subject matter of the trial, or might have limited knowledge of what is occurring before them, thus creating a bigger possibility of them making an uneducated decision. It can be clearly observed that general trial jury are in reality a no better substitution for a grand jury as both carry numerous disadvantages to them.

Just observing the recent example of Eric Garner’s death can make the case against the grand jury hearings. The case of Eric Garner was presented before the grand jury for strangling/chocking the unarmed black man, Eric Garner to death during his, Eric Garner’s arrest. Once again the grand jury failed to accuse a white police officer for causing a death of a black young man. Thousands of people found this grand jury trial not only unfair, but also simply discriminating, as Daniel Pantaleo (the accused) is a white man who had killed a black unarmed man, thus causing speculation that there was racism amongst the grand jury when the verdict was being decided on.

One might raise a similar question about the grand jury trial of Darren Wilson, which happened last month, and caused thousands of people to come out to the streets in protests, that later involved into setting-police-cars-and-buildings-on-fire rampage through the city, breaking out in Ferguson and other cities in America. The people of Ferguson, New York, Dallas and Los Angeles, certainly didn’t approve of the decision of the grand jury, but President Obama has addressed the protesters suggesting that all should accept the decision of the grand jury as the grand jury represents the US judicial branch and thus their decision carries a significant weight. I believe however that in case of tens of thousands of people standing against the 12 juries’ decision, a long time frustration with the current judicial system is reaching the surface of the society. My arguments and statements here are not in favor of the guilt of Darren Wilson; they are in favor of a fair system. Essentially, this case itself is a argument against the grand jury system as, the prosecutor, himself chose to have a grand jury hearing more similar to a common trial, by having witnesses and evidence presented from both the prosecutor’s and the defense’s sides. The way that the case of Michael Brown’s homicide was handled shows how the prosecutor felt it would be a more fair and clear grand jury hearing if most of the grand jury’s hearings attributes were taken away to make it more like a common trial.

Undoubtedly there are reasons why the government is using the grand and trial jury system in the courts, the way it does, but it does not mean the system is bulletproof. Men are human, and they possess feelings and thoughts, which cannot be altered, but can alter the life of others. We need to focus on bringing true justice, be it through revising or altering the system altogether.