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May 25, 2014

The Law and You: Why a jury?

There are many legal terms that sound abstract and uninformative. 

They are repeated over and over, and their importance is emphasized. But their meaning, the key to the code, is not explained.

“Rule of Law” is one of those. 

We talk about America being a society with Rule of Law; sometimes that phrase is followed by, “not Rule of Man.” By this, we at least mean that we have written laws in place, that no one is above them and that we apply the law fairly to everyone.

SHOCKING MASS TRIAL

I started thinking about Rule of Law recently when hearing news reports of a judge in Egypt finding 683 people guilty in a mass trial of killing a police officer during a violent demonstration and then sentencing them all to death. 

Reportedly, their “trial” lasted only a few minutes.

Although there were defense attorneys, they told the media that the judge refused to allow any witnesses or look at any evidence. 

Weeks earlier, the same judge found 529 people guilty in a mass trial and imposed death sentences. Later, he changed most sentences to life in prison, but affirmed 37 of the death sentences.

This is so shocking, it is difficult to express. 

Having an official named a judge and a location called a courtroom do not in themselves mean there is a functioning legal system.

There are many aspects of this masquerade that could be discussed at length, but what I'll talk about here is the value and importance of juries. 

Many people want to avoid jury duty; that's understandable, since sitting on a jury so interferes with their lives. 

But the more people who find excuses to opt out, the more difficult it is to choose a jury of open-minded jurors from a cross-section of our community.

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