The 19th Century saw an end to chattel slavery. The 20th Century saw an end to conscription slavery. Will we now, in the 21st Century, witness an end to the one remaining form of labor slavery, namely jury service? For those that do not consider jury service to be a form of slavery consider this: If a complete stranger sent you a letter ordering you to appear at a specific location at a specific time, what would you think? What if that person then also threatened you with imprisonment if you did not comply and with physical violence if you resisted the enforcement of compliance and you knew full well they could carry out that threat? Who would that person be, if not your master? The State is your master; the judge is merely its errand boy and the police its henchmen.
So if jury service mirrors the master-slave relationship and is thus a variant of slavery, why is there is no public outcry? Why the quiet acquiescence to our own subjugation? There are two reasons. Cost and confusion. The costs of jury service over one’s lifetime are relatively low (since many are never called and those that are get called only 2-3 times over a lifetime). For example, if the state imposed a new tax whereby everyone paid $10 a year and a randomly chosen 10 people would pay $100,000 instead, it simply would not be worth it for the vast majority of people to fight that. The odds you’ll be hit with the “big” tax are infinitesimal and the $10 tax isn’t costly enough to fight. Just because one puts up with something doesn’t mean it is ok or that consent is implied. It simply means that the costs of fighting it are greater than the burden imposed.
But if low costs are not enough to keep the masses in line, the state can rely on the modus operandi of the con artist: manipulate and confuse your victim into choosing to do your bidding. This is accomplished through public school mediated state sponsored indoctrination that convinces the masses that there exists this mystical thing called “civic duty” and that jury duty falls chief among those. There is no such thing as “civic duty” – we as individuals owe nothing to society by mere virtue of having been born and likewise “society” owes us nothing in return. Our only obligations in life are those that we explicitly consent to (employment, parenting, volunteering, etc.) But even if one does believe in the “civic duty” of jury service, does it not strike you as odd that everyone else in that courtroom (the judge, the lawyers, the bailiff, the court reporter, etc) are all there voluntarily and are being paid market rates for their service, yet the jurors are there involuntarily and are paid well below even minimum wage? Given that jurors by and large are present involuntarily the entire incentive structure of jury service is geared toward producing a low quality product as quickly as possible. That is not to say in ALL cases jurors behave this way, simply that most of the time that will be true since most of the time people just want to get back to their own lives, jobs, etc.
There are two ways the jury system can be improved. Just as we did with the military, we can move from a conscription-based model to an all-volunteer based model. I was called for jury duty last year and found the process to be fascinating. The timing was terrible so I was glad to be dismissed. However that is not to say I would be opposed to volunteering in the future. The point is I would be making the choice of when and where I serve.
The second method to improve the jury system would be to switch to a professional juror system. There is no reason that being a juror cannot be a full time paid profession just like any other. Think of it not so much as a panel of jurors and a judge but rather a panel of 13 judges with one judge guiding the proceedings. Those judges/jurors that gain a reputation for judicious verdicts would be sought out and used for more and more cases. Those that likewise had a poor reputation resulting from their unfair verdicts would cease to be used.
Today’s jury system is an anachronism. It pays homage to an era when the abuse of natural rights was commonplace. A slave may work under threat, but an employee works by desire. Which system do you want delivering you justice?